Just as Kerala is coming to terms with the solar scam, Malayalis are now getting an extra kick out of a new controversy – a mobile app targeted at tipplers.
At the centre of the new hullabaloo in God's own country is ‘Kuppi’, an app that gives detailed data of liquor brands available in Kerala. ‘Kuppi’ literally means bottle in Malayalam, but is also used in local diction to denote the liquor bottle, for which lakhs of Malayalis throng before outlets of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) every day. For a state which banned country liquor in 1996 when AK Antony was Chief Minister, the only places to get authentic Indian Made Foreign Liquor are these outlets.
While high prices have hardly deterred the average Malayali from consuming alcohol, with the ‘Kuppi’ app, that can be freely downloaded, he gets an updated price of the liquor, a list of beverages outlets and even the so-called ‘dry days’ when the liquor isn’t available. It even helps one plan his evening tipple according to his budget.
Critics are up in arms against this seemingly innocuous app, which has seen 25,000 downloads in five days since its launch on October 5, saying it entices the youth to drink. Their outcry is backed by facts. Liquor sales has already touched an all-time high in Kerala at Rs 8,841 crore for fiscal 2012-13 from Rs 7,860 crore in 2011-12, according to data provided by Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC).
Johnson Edayaranmula, Director, Alcohol & Drug Information Centre (ADIC), an NGO which fights the growing substance abuse and alcohol problem in India, said, "This is one of the latest examples of unethical practices of the liquor lobby with a hidden agenda." According to him, the promotion of alcohol through such apps is a violation of the Article 47 of the Indian Constitution as well as the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill.
Article 47 insists the prohibition of consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health while Cable Television Network Bill completely prohibits cigarette and alcohol advertisements in electronic media.
However, the creators of the app said on condition of anonymity that it was created just for fun. "We don't know how such an app will increase consumption of liquor. It displays price and beverages outlets lists which are already available on the BEVCO website.”
But Johnson does not buy this argument. "If they want to have fun, why did they choose alcohol, that too giving a price list, if not to target liquor users? Their intentions are clear. The liquor industry wants to get advantage of technology to lure youngsters to consume alcohol."
This is when the state itself has come under flak for encouraging alcohol consumption after BEVCO opened its first supermarket in Trivandrum last year, targeting buyers of high-end brands, who want to avoid long queues in front of beverages outlets.