Kerala excise policy controversy: Congress rejects tourism director’s claim

The Uncut

Thiruvananthapuram/Kozhikode. The Congress on Monday rejected the Kerala Tourism director’s claim that the recent stakeholders’ meeting held by the department had nothing to do with the government’s liquor policy. The Congress alleged that officials were forced to lie to protect ministers.

The Congress alleged that the decision to amend the excise policy was taken during a meeting called by the tourism department on May 21. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V.D. Satheesan claimed that bar owners held a meeting in Ernakulam and after that meeting decided to raise funds to get an ‘excise policy in their favour’.

He told reporters here, “In an alleged audio clip of a bar owner, he can be clearly heard saying that nothing will happen if the money is not received.” Satheesan alleged that the tourism director issued a statement in the media soon after the opposition attacked. The Congress has accused the tourism and excise ministers of lying on this matter.

He also alleged that the subject of the link of the ‘Zoom’ meeting called by the Tourism Director was ‘Excise Policy Review’.
The opposition leader also sought to know if the statement issued in the name of the tourism director was prepared in the tourism minister’s office. He alleged that officials were forced to protect ministers involved in corruption.
Tourism Minister P.A. Mohammed Riyas, however, continued to reject the Congress’ allegations and clarified that the meeting held on May 21 was a routine one.

He told reporters in Kozhikode that it was normal for the directorate to call such meetings of stakeholders and it was within the jurisdiction of the tourism director. Riyas suspected that there was an agenda to drag his name into the controversy. Terming the media reports on the matter as ‘misleading’, tourism director Shikha Surendran said the meeting was attended by industry groups from ‘resorts, hotels, houseboats and event management’, all of which play a vital role in developing the tourism sector. Surendran said in a statement that the meeting was not called on the instructions of the tourism minister.

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