Kerala: Asked for bill, Swedish tourist empties liquor bottles in Kovalam; cop suspended

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In a show of alleged highhandedness by the police in Kerala’s Kovalam, a foreign tourist was made to drain out liquor bottles by the roadside on Friday, the New’s Year’s eve. A police sub-inspector was suspended following the incident.

On Friday, Steven, a Swedish national staying in Kovalam, a showcase beach destination of Kerala, emptied two of the three bottles of liquor by the roadside after he failed to produce their purchase bill before the police. He had legally purchased the liquor from a government-run outlet.

After State Tourism Minister P A Muhammed Riyas took strong exception to the police action, sub-inspector Shaji, who led the police team, was placed under suspension.

“Police action was unfortunate at a time when the government is trying to attract more tourists to the state after the pandemic. It does not match with government policy. Tourism industry would face setbacks from such police action. The issue has been brought to the notice of the chief minister,’’ he said.

The action against the sub-inspector came after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought a report from DGP Anil Kant on the issue.

According to reports, Steven had purchased three bottles of liquor – as per the norms in Kerala, a person can carry three litres of liquor sold in the state – from a state-run BEVCO outlet at Vellar near Kovalam on Friday afternoon. While returning from the outlet on his scooter, Steven was flagged down by a police team, which has been inspecting vehicles as part of a special drive on New Year’s eve. An inspection of the scooter led to detection of three bottles of liquor from Steven’s travel bag.

A police officer asked Steven for the purchase bill, which he could not produce as the outlet had not given him the slip. When the foreigner requested that he be allowed to return to the liquor outlet and get the bill, the police asked him to abandon the bottles. Instead of abandoning the plastic bottles, Steven, however, decided to drain the liquor out of bottles.

After a journalist passing by began recording the scene, police asked the foreigner to fetch the bill. By then, he had emptied out two bottles. Steven was allowed to proceed only after he brought the purchase bill from the BEVCO outlet.

After the visuals went viral, police came under attack for its “unfriendly” approach towards tourists. Opposition Leader V D Satheesan told the media that the incident showed the government has lost control over the police. “This incident substantiates that CPI(M) local factions are controlling the police,’’ he said.

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