India's Kerala state plans to ban alcohol sales

KERALA - Authorities in the southern Indian state of Kerala have outlined plans to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol to tackle the state's drink problem.

The first phase of the ban would see more than 700 bars and as well as some shops selling alcohol shut down, with more alcohol-free days introduced.

The government aims to enforce total prohibition in 10 years.

Kerala has India's highest per capita alcohol consumption at more than eight litres per person yearly.

Doctors and activists have highlighted rising alcohol abuse, blaming it for many road accidents and even marital breakdown. They say hospitals and rehabilitation centres are packed with patients suffering from alcohol-related diseases.

Chief Minister Oomnen Chandy said the Congress-led government planned to make Kerala "liquor free" with a series of proposed measures in the coming months:

  • A total of 730 bars serving alcohol will be shut.
  • Sundays will be added to existing alcohol-free days on the first day of every month
  • Only luxury hotels will be allowed to serve alcohol from next year.
  • 10% of the 338 liquor shops owned by a state-run monopoly will be shut every year.

"The state should be prepared to accept total prohibition within this period [of 10 years]," he said.

Correspondents say businesses are worried that the proposed ban may hit tourism in the state. Kerala is the state which attracts the highest number of tourists in India.

Nor is it clear how the government plans to recover lost earnings from alcohol sales, which by one estimate accounts for more than 20% of revenues in the state's annual budget.

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