Kerala tries to switch to toddy

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jun 5 2011, 06:16am hrs
Tax inflow from the Rs 6,730-crore Indian-made foreign liqour (IMFL) market is a heady ferment that keeps Keralas finances pink, but the Congress-led UDF governments idealism is headier. More than the money, the new men at the helm are worried about the little state being repeatedly crowned the countrys biggest per-capita liquor-guzzler.

In a bold move recently, Keralas new excise minister K Babu had turned down the previous LDF Governments proposal for sanctioning 12 fresh IMFL sales outlets under the ambit of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), the sole liquor vendor in the state. In fact, it was the first file that came my way, as minister. This would have fetched higher tax income. But then, theres already IMFL saturation in Kerala and it is not UDF policy to add more, he said.

Instead, the minister has proposed broad-basing coconut toddy production base, so that IMFL consumption can gradually be substituted with toddy demand.

It is however too early to conclude that cork is firm and tight on the bottle. Left economist and former finance minister TM Thomas Isaac could never hide his excitement when the IMFL revenue fountain gurgled afresh by about Rs 1,000 crore per year, during his tenure.

It is yet to be clear, if UDFs finance minister KM Mani will be happy to hum the excise ministers no-more-liquor tune, after he comes out with the proposed white paper on state finances.