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India's wettest state to go dry - in 10 years

Reuters

By Shivam Srivastava

BANGALORE (Reuters) - India's wettest state is planning to dry out, drop by drop.

The tropical southern state of Kerala, which has the country's highest alcohol consumption per capita, is moving to become alcohol-free within 10 years.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, quoted in local media, said the state government was in favour of "total prohibition". From next April, only 5-star hotels will be granted bar licences.

An resident of Kerala typically drinks about 8.3 liters of alcohol per year, more than double the national average. Rum, whiskey and brandy are the state's favourite tipples.

Tourism officials worry the ban might hit the most successful industry in a state that markets itself as "God's Own Country". Tourism revenue totaled about $3.8 billion last year.

"How are we going to compete with Sri Lanka and Thailand?" said V Sreekumara Menon, secretary of the Association Of Tourism Trade Organisations India.

But residents are less worried. Though hundreds of bars will close in the next few months, government-run liquor stores will be phased out more gradually over the next decade - a long time in politics.

"People who can afford to drink can go to 5-star hotels," said Sandeep Chandy, a 25-year-old law student from the coastal city of Kochi.

For others, there's always toddy. Made from fermented palm-tree sap, the drink has long been part of Kerala's culture and is exempt from any ban.

(Additional reporting by Arnab Sen in Bangalore; Writing by Supriya Kurane; Editing by Robin Paxton)

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