Officials in Kerala, a state in southern India, have announced steps to curb the growing problem of alcoholism, but church groups and prohibition activists seek more stringent measures. The state has the highest alcohol consumption figures in the country, as well as the largest number of Christians.
“We welcome these measures. But we want more concrete and stronger steps to address alcoholism, which is causing havoc here,” said Rev. M.T. Tharian of the Christian Temperance Movement (CTM) of Kerala, an ecumenical movement against alcoholism organized by the Kerala Council of Churches.
A new state government that took power in May has raised the age limit for buying alcohol from 18 to 21 years. Though the distance between bars has been increased, and the quantity of liquor people can keep at home has been curtailed, Christians feel it isn’t enough. Alcohol taxes generate more revenue for the state than any other product.
“The government has violated the election promise to hand over the power to grant licenses for new bars to the village councils. This is a serious issue,” said Tharian, a pastor in the Church of South India. Such a move could help curb alcoholism, he said. Half of village council members are women.
The CTM plans to convene a meeting of bishops and church leaders to forge a strategy.
“We are upset by this policy. The government has violated the solemn promise made to us,” said Radhakrishnan Perumpalath, a Hindu district leader of the Kerala Prohibition Council.
Catholic archbishop Andrews Thazhath, president of the Kerala Catholic bishops Council, feels the new policy will actually worsen the problem, which has led to a rise in suicides and road accidents.
“The new policy is a contradiction in itself,” said Thazhath. “On the one hand, the government is fighting alcoholism, and other hand, it is increasing revenue from it,” he said.