Kerala bishop against Excise Department running anti-liquor drive

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 17 (IANS) In the larger interest of the state, the Kerala Excise Department should not run anti-liquor campaigns when they are also engaged in selling liquor, a bishop said on Friday.

Addressing reporters here, Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios, who is also Chairman of the Anti-Liquor Public Front, said that when the state’s Excise Department is engaged in selling liquor, they cannot do a proper job in running an anti-liquor awareness campaign.

“The anti-liquor campaigns should be spearheaded by various departments under the Chief Minister. The Education, Health and Local Self Government departments should be vital players in garnering public support and running such campaigns,” said the Bishop.

He said they are keenly waiting to find out the upcoming liquor policy of the state government and they will not accept anything other than a policy which would take the state to total prohibition.

“We recently saw a goof-up done by the state government when they came up with statements asking for exemption of beer and wine from the definition of liquor. But later, better sense prevailed and it was withdrawn, and this is why we are apprehensive of the Excise Department running an anti-liquor campaign. The liquor lobby is very strong,” added the bishop.

He said that they are organising a march on February 21 and staging a sit-in before the state secretariat to send a message to the state government that they should be very careful when they come out with their new liquor policy.

The bishop also said that the Kerala government should without fail abide by the new directive of the apex court with regard to moving out bars and liquor retail outlets from the state and national highways.

“Promotion of ‘Neera’ (health drink produced from coconut trees) should be encouraged, as it will benefit the local agrarian economy besides it’s a proven health drink,” added the bishop.