Covid-19 lockdown: Boozers swarm liquor shops; police warn of action

Topics Coronavirus | Liquor sale | Lockdown

People outside a liquor shop at Chander Nagar in East Delhi on Monday. The Delhi government is set to charge 70% more tax on liquor from Tuesday.
Taking a serious note of long queues outside Pune liquor shops on Monday, police have warned of strict action against such shops if they become the cause of crowding.

Pune Commissioner of Police K Venkatesham directed liquor shops to ensure that social distancing norms are complied with.

"Wine shops have to take steps for ensuring social distance norms & it is their duty in the red zone. If any shop becomes the reason for crowding, action will be taken," he tweeted.

He also asked liquor shop owners to adopt a token system with timings.

"One can purchase in a neighbourhood shop only. Plying of the vehicle without a valid permit may entail seizure and fine. For companies which have factories outside the PMC limits and construction projects, the movement of the staff is allowed in dedicated vehicle 'bus' rather than individual vehicles," he said.

Joint commissioner of police, Ravindra Shisave reminded people that lockdown is still in place and Pune is under red zone.

On Monday, the Delhi government said it will impose a "special corona fee" on alcohol sale which will be 70 per cent of the MRP.

In an official order issued late in night, the finance department has imposed the fee, applicable from Tuesday.

"70 per cent of the maximum retail price on all categories of liquor sold through retail licencees for consumption off the premises," the Finance Department order signed by the Deputy Secretary reads, describing the fee.

According to officials, the step will help in boosting the revenue, badly hit due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal government announced series of relaxations in various coronavirus zones, even as reopening of liquors shops witnessed tipplers giving a thumbs down to the social distancing.

The standalone liquor shops were reopened in green, orange and red zones, except in containment areas, after 42 days since the beginning of lockdown in the state on March 25, but the police had a hard time in several areas of the city in ensuring tipplers adhere to social distancing norms.

Customers were seen waiting in queues outside liquor shops. But the moment the shops opened the shutters, they started elbowing each other in many places like Dumdum and parts of Kolkata.

The police had to rush to these shops to maintain law and order and some of these shops were shut within an hour.

"Police had to come to maintain law and order in front of the shop and ultimately closed it down. Several other shops were also shut down by them," an official said.

The liquor shop will operate from noon to 7 pm as per the latest government order, which also stated about the do's and don'ts, both for the customers and the shopkeepers.

Meanwhile in Madhya Pradesh, with tipplers were eagerly awaiting the word, the state government announced its decision to reopen the liquor and hemp (Bhang) vends in 49 out of 52 districts from Tuesday. The excise revenue is very a key factor for the government's keenness to order reopening of the shops.

"The liquor and hemp shops won't re-open in Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain falling under the red zone from Tuesday till further orders," a government release said.

Considering what happened to the states like Delhi and Chhattisgarh which witnessed chaotic scenes, the government was expected to rethink on the issue.

However, it is the liquor retail contractors who are likely to move the state high court on Tuesday to oppose the government order, fearing heavy losses they will incur if the vends were opened under the fresh terms laid down post-lockdown.

The contractors who have invested high amounts for vending licenses will not be able to recover even a fraction in the present stipulations. Before the start of the lockdown, they could keep the shops open for more than 12 hours.

"We are opposed to the reopening of the liquor shops now as it would cause heavy losses to us. The sale will be high for initial two or three days.... after that it will nosedive due to the lock down," a liquor retailer said.

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