Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today made it clear that his government would not go back on its new liquor policy of limiting bar licenses to only 5-star hotels as part of a move to implement total prohibition in the state in 10 years' time. Answering questions in this regard after a Cabinet meeting here, Chandy told reporters that the decision in this regard was not taken in a hasty manner and the matter was discussed for about five months.
As to the issue of loss of revenue for the state exchequer due to the new policy, Chandy said, "I am not taking the revenue loss of about Rs 7,000 crore lightly. However, the loss to society and drawbacks due to liquor consumption is much more than the revenue earned by the state." The Cabinet also decided to give an Onam festival allowance of Rs 5,000 each to all the workers of the 412 bars in the state which have been already shut down. There were 7,467 employees in these bars.
As per the new policy, besides these 412 bars, notices have been issued to 312 other such establishments to close down by September 12.
Meanwhile, on a vigilance court verdict directing further probe in a case of alleged corruption in the setting up of an effluent treatment plant at Travancore Titanium Products (TTP) here, Chandy said the court had not made him an accused in the case.
The case was registered upon a complaint by a pro-CPI(M) CITU leader, Chandy said. Rejecting Opposition allegation of irregularities, Chandy said he had taken the decision to set up the plant in good faith and was "very proud" of the move to protect the interest of workers. "Why did LDF, which is raising allegations of corruption now, not order a probe when they were in power," he asked. "It was during the previous LDF rule that the treatment plant was inaugurated," he said.
Explaining how the plant came to be set up, Chandy said that the state pollution control board had issued a closure notice to the company along with some others as per a Supreme Court directive. "As far as I am concerned, what I did was to ensure that a group of factories and TTP was not closed down and I had taken an active role only to protect the interests of the employees," he said. The case pertains to alleged irregularities in the setting up of the effluent treatment plant at the state-owned TTP, one of Kerala's oldest public sector firms. The apex court monitored committee had recommended closure of about 198 units in the state when Chandy was the chief minister in 2005.