THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala High Court has struck down a part of the Left government's Abkari Act, the bishops have condemned the toddy policy as a whole, but aficionados of the exotic brew may still have reason to cheer. They could expect pure toddy served in decent shops instead of stingy shady joints.
The Kerala Abkari Shops Disposal (Amendment) Rules 2007 stipulates that toddy on sale "should be natural and conform to such specifications and comply with such restrictions as may be notified by the government".
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, though rebuffed by the High Court on a provision that helps cooperative societies to bag the lease to run toddy shops, is firm on its resolve to provide quality toddy through thousands of shops.
The Supreme Court in December 2006 had asked the government to fix the alcohol content in toddy.
LDF convener Vaikom Viswan has said that the government would insist on hygienic conditions in toddy shops and about 50 trees would have to be tapped by each shop to ensure good toddy.
According to the notification, alcohol content of coconut toddy should not exceed 8.1 percent and palm toddy 5.2 percent as per the new rules. It should be free of external alcohol content and possess the natural flavour and aroma. Toddy shops across the state, which face a dearth of the natural brew, have been mixing alcohol and water to ensure a steady supply.
The new notification not only bars extraneous alcohol, but also sweetening agents such as starch, chloral hydrate, paraldehyde and any psychotropic substance used to give the extra kick. Toddy should be free from Escherichia coli too. Tartaric acid content should not exceed 400 gm per 100 litres and ascetic acid should not cross more than 100 gm.
However, Catholic Bishops are up in arms against the new policy. "Instead of discouraging drinking, the government is spreading the tentacles of the liquor lobby. We will not allow the government to reopen toddy shops," Thiruvananthapuram archbishop MS Pakiam said. The body has threatened to sit in dharna in front of the district collectorate to press the government to reverse its liquor policy.
If the bishops are seeing red, it is the liquor business that has prompted the Congress-led unions to challenge the rules in the HC. The court has held that the decision to hand over toddy shops in select ranges to cooperatives was illegal but was silent on its provision to give priority to toddy shops having three years experience.