A 38-year-old man from Kunnamkulam in Kerala reportedly committed suicide on the third day of the pan-India Coronavirus shutdown in Kerala because he could not get his daily dose of alcohol.
Sanoj, a resident of Thuvanoor near Kunnamkulam was found dead today morning.
According to the statements of his relatives, he was showing signs of extreme stress and withdrawal symptoms after failing to get alcohol for nearly three days.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a total shut down of non-essential shops on Tuesday to prevent community spread of Coronavirus COVID-19.
While liquor shops were open under the lockdown announced by the Kerala government last week, they were closed after such shops failed to find a mention in the center’s list of establishments that can continue to operate during the shutdown.
Just a day earlier, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had, on Monday, refused to shut down liquor shops, saying that doing so would lead to unforeseen and undesirable outcomes.
The chief minister’s remarks were an apparent reference to the risk of a proliferation of illicit alcohol as addicts sought out any way to satisfy their cravings.
On Wednesday, on the first day of the lockdown, the state government also decided to explore the possibility of setting up an online delivery mechanism for liquor in Kerala.
Yesterday, Minister Kadakampally Surendran said some people have started showing symptoms of withdrawal and have been moved to de-addiction centers.
All three main opposition parties — Indian National Congress Party, BJP and Muslim League — are opposed to the sale of liquor in general, and at this time in particular.
Their opposition is seen as an attempt to win the support of those who oppose the consumption of alcohol, particularly strict religious believers.
However, the current government — led by the CPIM — has repeatedly rebuffed their demands for a prohibition on alcohol sales in Kerala.
However, the primary reason for continuing alcohol sales are fiscal.
Liquor sales contribute the largest chunk of revenue to the state exchequer in a state in which around half the male population consume alcohol.
Alcohol is taxed at extremely high rates in the state, with a bottle that is sourced for around Rs 100 from a factory often retailing for double or more at the end point.
Taxes are not the only source of revenue for the government from the sales of alcohol.
Liquor retailing too is under the full control of the government of Kerala, with two agencies, Kerala State Beverages Corporation or BEVCO and and Kerala State Co-operatives Consumers’ Federation (ConsumerFed) enjoying a total monopoly.
Alcohol worth around Rs 15,000 cr is sold via the 306 BEVCO outlets and a handful of ConsumerFed outlets per year, and the government earns around Rs 2,600 cr as excise revenue alone.