Thiruvananthapuram: Even as Kerala`s new liquor policy, which aims to achieve total prohibition in the state in the next ten years, will be submitted to the high court on Tuesday, wine appears to have been caught in a tangle.
Ezhava social leader Vellapaly Natesan was the first to come out against wine when he told reporters on Friday that some religious institutions (Christian churches) use wine and it should also be banned.
"Some churches even sell wine and this should also be stopped," said Natesan.
The new liquor policy, according to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, is ready and provides that beginning next financial year, liquor would be served only in five-star hotels and every year 10 percent of the 383 retail liquor sales outlets would be closed so that in 10 years Kerala achieves total prohibition.
Fr Paul Thelekkat, spokesman of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, lamented the issue of wine was being given a "communal colour.
"The response of Natesan was not a criticism of the use of wine for the Holy Mass by the church but a type of lampooning which is distasteful as everyone knows of the sacred use of it. The excise department of Kerala knows it. He has every right to criticise the church`s stand on liquor and the stand of the UDF. But I am sorry to say his comments have a communal colour.
"It pains me when I realise that he is doing it under the banner of an organisation of Sree Narayana Guru who exhorted neither to tap nor to drink toddy and who also taught never to be divisive in the name of religion," Thelekkat added.
Interestingly, wine, whiskey and gin account for just one percent of the Rs.10,000 crore annual sale of alcohol in Kerala. Rum reigns as the number one choice of tipplers, accounting for more than 55 percent of liquor sold, followed by brandy with close to 40 percent share. Vodka sales are at four percent.