A few years back, when I went to Kerala for the first time, I was mesmerised by the natural beauty of the God’s own country. While travelling through the various parts of the state there was one more thing which amazed me, that was small Toddy shops full of people. Kerala’s love affair with alcohol can be seen on these roadside shops. With 100 percent literacy rates, the state also topped the most alcohol consumption state in India. With per capita consumption of about 8 litres per person a year, it is hard to believe how traditionally hard drinking states as Haryana and Punjab are way behind Kerala.
Homemade liquor such as Toddy have been an integral part of Kerala’s society. Coconut trees are like a symbol of Kerala, it grows everywhere. If you take a morning walk you can see the ‘toddy tappers’ taking out the extract from the coconut sap. Interestingly this freshly extracted toddy is sweet and non-alcoholic and used for making appam and even served to children as a source of protein. But by the evening Toddy transforms into a stiff and bitter alcoholic drink with nearly 4 percent alcohol.
Easy access of alcohol is the main reason of its becoming the part of the life of the state. Social impact of alcoholism in Kerala is so much that no ceremony is complete without alcohol. Be it marriage, Onam or Christmas people celebrate with toddy or drinks like rum, brandy and beer. Even early in the morning long queue can be seen outside the alcohol shops which get longer by the end of the day.
Alcohol is not only a cause of merriment for the people of Kerala, it also gave a good high to state’s economy. More than 40 % of the revenue of the state comes from liquor industry till 2015. But growing road accidents because of Kerala drinking problem and rise of domestic violence forced Kerala government to impose restriction on the sale of alcohol. It was restricted to only 5-star hotels and this decision not only affected the people of Kerala but also the Tourism industry was also adversely affected.
While many supported this ban but many thinks that it violated the personal freedom and it also leads to the illegal production of alcohol not solving the Kerala drinking problem. This was the main reason behind the easing the policy in June 2017. According to new policy alcohol can be served in 2 and 3 stars hotels, but the age for alcohol consumption was raised to 23 from 21.
Don’t know how effectively the new law will lower the Kerala’s drinking problem but certainly, God’s own country is rejoicing. With a softer liquor policy Kerala’s love affair with alcohol will go on and so the tourist’s love for this beautiful place.