Onam set to get soaked in booze this year too

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on August 19, 2010

Kerala’s State-owned liquor supplier, Beverages Corporation (BevCo), is all set to soak the annual Onam festival in booze. In the ten days preceding and succeeding the Onam day, Monday, BevCo hopes to net Rs 225 crore through liquor sales at its 337 outlets State-wide. Last year, the ten-day Onam liquor sales fetched BevCo Rs 205 crore.

Though the target set by BevCo for the ten-day Onam sales is Rs 225 crore, officials of the corporation say that it could well cross that mark and go up to Rs 230 crore or above. Keeping this possibility in mind, the BevCo bosses have stored India-manufactured foreign liquor (IMFL) worth Rs 300 in the showcases. For BevCo, the Onam sales season this year is the ten days from August 17 to 27 (there is a “dry day” in this period)..

That BevCo would easily attain its target is already clear. On Tuesday, the first day of the season, BevCo sold IMFL worth Rs 19.46 crore, up almost 25 percent compared to the same day’s sales last year. On Wednesday, sales went up further to net Rs 21.35 crore whereas the sales on the same day last season were worth Rs 17.50 crore. “It keeps going up, every day, every year,” said a BevCo official.

BevCo managing director N Shankar Reddy believes that there would be an increase of 20 percent in the corporation’s booze sales this Onam compared to that in the last season. The sales on the peak Onam day (Uthradam, the day that precedes the actual festival day, Thiruvonam) were worth Rs 34.13 crore last year. Reddy expects it to go up considerably this year.

The sales target set by the corporation for Thiruvonam, the festival day that falls on Monday this year, is Rs 25 crore while last time it had sold liquor worth Rs 22.62 crore. “We, Keralites, are a breed apart,” says sociologist Raveendranath. “Festival for us – not all of us indeed – means booze. But we should also remember that boozers in Kerala drink even if here is no reason to drink,” he laughs.

The Government gets happier as the sales graph of the corporations skyrockets. The CPI(M)-led LDF Government that came to power more than four years ago has earned Rs 14,922.54 crore in taxes from BevCo. The corporation sold liquor worth Rs 5,538.59 crore in 2009-10 and gave Rs 4,253 crore to the Government in taxes.

BevCo’s sales target for this fiscal is Rs 6,500 crore and the Government would then be getting a tax income of more than Rs 6,000 crore. It is a huge amount, the largest from a singe sector, as far as the State is concerned. As per the State Budget, the total Revenue income Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac expects to make this fiscal is a little over Rs 31,000 crore.

Also happy are the BevCo employees. This Onam, they would get bonus – at 22.5 percent, up three percent from last year – ranging between Rs 40,000 and Rs 12,000 while the highest bonus fixed in the Government sector is just Rs 2,750. In 2009-10, BevCo made a profit of Rs 150 crore from liquor sales.

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