New Delhi: The Delhi government on Monday reduced the number of dry days to just three from the existing 21, a move that drew praise from the hospitality industry but invited criticism from opposition BJP and Congress.
Under the new excise policy, liquor shops and opium vends in the national capital will now remain closed only on three national holidays -- Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15) and Gandhi Jayanti on October 2.The excise department, however, said the restriction on sale of liquor on dry days will not apply to the service of alcohol to occupants in case of hotels having L-15 license. L-15 license allows hotels to serve liquor to guests in their rooms.
"In pursuance of the provisions of Rule 52 of Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, it is hereby ordered that the following dates shall be observed as "Dry Day" in the National Capital Territory of Delhi by all the licensees of the Excise department and opium vends located in Delhi for the year 2022," the department's order stated, listing the three national holidays as the days when the sale of alcohol will not be permitted.
Earlier, the dry days numbered 21 including on birth anniversary of great leaders and religious festivals. The business premises of a licensee will be kept closed on dry day. In 2021, the dry days had been observed on Holi, Diwali, Janmashtami, Muharram, Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid), Good Friday, Ram Navami, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Maharishi Valmiki' s Birthday, Guru Nanak's Birthday, Dussehra and other occasions.
The order issued on Monday said that apart from the three dry days, the government may declare any other day in the year as 'Dry Day' from time to time. The licensees will not be entitled to any compensation on account of any changes related to number of 'dry days'. All the licensees will exhibit the 'dry day' order at some conspicuous place of their licensed premises, it said. The decision to reduce 'dry days' was welcomed by hospitality industry in Delhi. "We welcome this move as it will benefit both consumers as well as traders. It will save us from losses that earlier occurred due to more dry days that meant closure of shops and restaurants and business despite paying full licence fee for the year," said Kabir Suri, president of National Restaurants Association of India.
The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) also welcomed the government's decision, saying that "anachronistic anomaly" has been removed. "This is indeed a very welcome step, befitting a modern city of international nature that Delhi is. Such high number of dry days in Delhi made little sense, especially as the neighbouring states have no such limitations. We applaud the Delhi Government for rectifying this anachronistic anomaly."
People of Delhi are matured, know how to enjoy their drink responsibly and reducing number of dry days will only make things easier for them without any adverse fallout on social behaviour," he told PTI. However, both the BJP and the Congress slammed the Arvind Kejriwal government, alleging that the move is aimed at promoting liquor in the national capital. Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said that with cutting down of alcohol dry days in Delhi from 21 to just three days, the Arvind Kejriwal government stands "exposed as promoter of intoxication in society, especially amongst the youth".
"Till today, the sale or service of liquor in Delhi was prohibited on major festivals of all religions as a mark of respect for religious sentiments. But, with the decision to forego all dry days, Arvind Kejriwal government has shown it has no respect for any religions sanctity," Kapoor alleged in a statement. Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee vice president Mudit Agrawal also criticised the move.
"By decreasing the number of dry days, the government wants to maximise the sale of liquor in Delhi without realising the social consequences of it. We will oppose this move," Agrawal told PTI.
He said the Congress will surely oppose and protest the move and will not let the government do things arbitrarily. The new excise policy of Delhi was implemented from November 17 with the private liquor vends opening across the city. So far, nearly 550 private liquor vends out of 849 licences issued by the department have started functioning in the city.
The limiting of dry days to three days is one component of the new policy. The government is yet to take a call on bringing down legal drinking age from present 25 years to 21 years, which is also part of the policy.
The department has also yet to pave way for opening of five super premium vends mandated by the new policy by issuing tenders for it. An excise department officer said the new policy replaces the previous one overhauling liquor trade completely. The provisions of the new policy are to be implemented keeping interest of all stakeholders including consumers in view.