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No final decision on dry days, says Kerala Chief Secretary

Kerala Chief Secretary V Venu

Kerala Chief Secretary V Venu Photo | Emphatic

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amid controversies surrounding the reported participation of key tourism department officials in the meeting to frame a new liquor policy for the state, chief secretary V Venu has come forward to clarify the situation. Responding to the concerns raised by various quarters, Venu confirmed that while there were indeed discussions at bureaucratic levels on the issue, no final decisions had been taken on the lifting of dry days for the sale of liquor.

In a statement issued, Venu stressed that recent reports suggesting a permanent change in excise policy are unfounded. The government’s clarification comes in the wake of the opposition’s investigation, particularly around bribery allegations. The Opposition had pointed fingers at the Tourism Minister, alleging interference in the excise department’s domain.

In his statement on Monday, the Chief Secretary said certain discussions have been held in line with his mandate to improve the financial situation of the state. There is a fake campaign going on that misinterprets these discussions, he said.

“Stakeholders in the industry and tourism sector have long been demanding the elimination of dry days. Stakeholders in the excise sector had also demanded the same. The issue was discussed during the meeting on excise matters convened by the Chief Secretary on January 4. But no final decision has been made yet,” he said in the statement.

Earlier, on March 1, a secretaries meeting chaired by the CS had discussed steps to improve the state’s finances and administrative efficiency. There was talk about the consequences of lowering the state’s borrowing limit. Ease of doing business reforms, use of the urban infrastructure development fund and legal cases involving the government were also discussed. The CS directed the secretaries to hold further discussions and propose ideas within two months.

During the meeting, various sectors were identified to increase state revenue. One of the topics under discussion was the ban on the sale of liquor on twelve days a year and its negative impact on the tourism sector and the business opportunities of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, congresses, exhibitions).

The CS then directed the director of tourism to assess the losses to the state and submit a note after discussions. The director of tourism was asked to hold discussions with stakeholders in the industry. The Director of Tourism holds regular meetings with stakeholders. He also reports on the discussions after each meeting. The CS said it was his duty to provide directions to secretaries on improving the state’s finances.

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