The Kerala government on Thursday passed an ordinance to raise the legal age for drinking in the state to 23 years from the current 21 years, ANI reported. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government has now sent it to Governor P Sathasivam for clearance, NDTV reported.

The state Cabinet had on Wednesday decided to amend the Abkari Act for this purpose.

The previous Congress-led United Democratic Front government had adopted a pro-prohibitionist policy, which was implemented in 2014. It restricted country-made foreign liquor bars to five-star hotels and brought the shutters down on more than 700 other bars, with the aim of reducing availability of foreign liquor in Kerala and bring about total prohibition in a decade.

However, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front diluted this policy when it came to power, and most outlets that had closed down were allowed to open.

As many activists and political watchers saw this as the government pandering to the liquor lobby, the decision to raise the legal drinking age is being perceived as an attempt to soften the criticism against the government, according to The Hindu.

Johnson Edayaranmula, Director of Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, said that the new law would only ensure that underage drinking goes underground.