Church leaders back total liquor sales ban in India state

Church leaders have welcomed a move by authorities in India’s Kerala state to phase out liquor sales completely in 10 years.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said liquor outlets will be reduced by 10 per cent each year, eliminating sales completely within a decade.

Beginning next year, bar licenses will be issued only to five-star hotels, while many of the state’s 720 bars and restaurants will not have their licenses renewed.

Kerala has India’s highest annual per capita alcohol consumption, with annual sales reaching US$ 415 million.

The president of the Indian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, congratulated Mr Chandy for “his bold steps toward making the state liquor-free”.

Cardinal Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, met the chief minister soon after the decision was announced, to hand him a US$1600 cheque for a new fund created to assist workers employed in the state’s liquor stores.

The cardinal said Church leaders have been requesting a ban on alcohol sales for several years.

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