Kerala government has recently taken an unprecedented decision to wind up nearly 420 bars in hotels across the state which are of different classifications. The government has also announced a bold decision to phase out the sale of liquor in the state within a time frame. Almost all caste and religious groups in the state have welcomed the decision except SNDP Yogam leader Vellappally Natesan. While NSS (Nair Service Society) used to side with prohibitionists earlier, this time NSS general secretary Sukumaran Nair seemed to be not much enthused by the government decision.
In fact media reports say Sukumaran Nair opined that the decision to shut down bar hotels was impractical. He further noted that the decision of govt was a result of ego clash among Congress leaders who wanted to enhance their image by closing down bar hotels. According to newspaper reports, Nair wanted a practical approach to enlighten people to abstain liquor instead of banning its sale suddenly. Nair’s opinion on prohibition seems to support Vellappally’s stand. It seems NSS and SNDP who in the recent past called off their unity moves have joined together again in the liquor issue.
The current stand of NSS on prohibition is actually against the age old stand of NSS. M.P Manmadhan who was once registrar and general secretary of NSS was the leader of anti-liquor movement in Kerala. K Kelappan, noted freedom fighter and prohibition activist was the founder president of NSS. If one checked leaders of Kerala Madya Nirodhana Samithi (roughly translated as Kerala Probhibition Council) one would find a large number of eminent Nairs, many of whom were also associated with NSS. They included Lakshmi N Menon, Prof. G Kumara Pillai and Sugatha Kumari. Till the end of 1980’s anti-liquor movements were strong in Kerala though no government took a concrete step to ban all types of liquor in the state.
The leading light of NSS Mannath Padmanabhan had always stood to save Nair community from the menace of liquor. It is a fact that several thousands of Nair families in the state have lost their wealth and health because of liquor. From 1950s to 1980s a large number of Nair families in Kerala had experienced the ills of excessive drinking. One could find many reputed Nair families losing all wealth because of the excessive drinking habits of men. Fortunately Nair youth of present have moved away from the habit and the
While there were a large number of Nairs in Kerala who were addicted to liquor earlier few of them were in the liquor business. During that period the liquor trade of Kerala was almost entirely controlled by a backward community. Ban on brewing and selling cheap country liquor made locally implemented by former Kerala CM A K Antony in 1996 might have affected the prosperity of some communities in Kerala but NSS need not worry about that. Moreover they could have diversified into other businesses.
Though at present Nairs and Christians own a significant number of bar attached hotels in Kerala NSS need not support liquor trade. Liquor has cost our community wealth and health. Nairs who were traditionally warriors and farmers need not worry much about prohibition. Instead we should use the ban to save our youth.
Apprehensions on the practicality of prohibition are irrelevant in the present situation in Kerala where liquor flows like water. Lack of easy access may prevent many from drinking. Only addicts will go all out to get a drink. Moreover because of fear of law not many will come out in the public after drinking. Kerala consumes the highest quantity of liquor in India. This is the cause of violence and road accidents. Many families break up because of liquor menace. Nair community will benefit eventually from the ban. So NSS needs to welcome prohibition.