The Kerala government has sanctioned more Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) outlets with the aim of shortening queues in front of liquor shops.
The order issued by K R Jyothilal, Principal Secretary (Taxes), allowing the outlets does not mention any numbers, but says that sufficient shops could be opened to reduce queues. With this, 68 outlets which were earlier closed as part of the phased liquor ban imposed by the United Democratic Front (UDF) would be reopened.
Earlier, the BEVCO MD Shyam Sundar had sought permission from the government to open 175 new outlets. If the request of Bevco is approved entirely, Kerala would get another 243 outlets, including the 68 which are to be reopened. Subsequently, the total number would go up to 552. At present, Bevco and Consumerfed operate 306 outlets. In addition, Consumerfed manages three beer shops.
The BEVCO had requested the government to reopen the outlets those were shut as premium shops and to open up fresh ones with walk-in facility. Earlier this year the Bureau of Public Enterprises had reported a loss of Rs 1,608.17 crore for BEVCO.
One of the reasons for the reported loss was down to the closing of outlets within 500 metres of state and national highways following a Supreme Court order. Due to unavailability of land and local protests the relocation of most of those outlets did not happen.
According to the government order, the new outlets were allowed based on a directive of the High Court to reduce crowds at liquor shops and as part of the new liquor policy of the state government.
In his report to the government, the Bevco MD had pointed out that Kerala had only one liquor outlet every 100 sq km and for 1.25 lakh people. The corresponding figures were 20 sq km and 25,000 people in other states, the MD added.
Meanwhile, the government order says outlets which were earlier shut down could be reopened either in the same taluk where they functioned or in the neighbouring taluks. The order also says that the new outlets should have a walk-in facility and could be opened at places mentioned by the Bevco MD or locations cleared by the Excise Department after an inspection.
The number outlets shut by the UDF government and to be reopened in each district is: Ernakulam (8), Idukki (8), Kollam, Kozhikode, Kottayam and Palakkad (6 each), Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur (5 each), Alappuzha, Wayanad and Kannur (4 each), Malappuram (3) and Kasaragod (2) and Pathanamthitta (1).