The Rajasthan Excise Department has issued orders that liquor shops will not open in Jaipur until further orders. The order was issued by excise commissioner BC Malik after reports of huge crowds and flouting of social distancing norms.
The shops will however open tomorrow with adequate barricading and a token system. There are speculations that identity proof and phone number would also be taken from them. Meanwhile activists campaigning for Prohibition have questioned the move and written to the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision to open liquor shops amid COVID-19 Epidemic.
It needs to be mentioned that Jaipur falls under a, Red Zone and has 1005 positive cases with 12 new cases being registered just today morning. It also needs to be mentioned that liquor is the largest source of revenue for the Rajasthan government.
Liquor shops had been closed for 42 days, since the lockdown came into effect at the end of March, and were scheduled to be opened at 12 noon after stock taking was completed for the financial year that passed during lockdown. But the crowds had begun swelling since early morning and became uncontrollable as time passed. People could be seen crowding and jostling at the shops. This led to shops being ordered shut at around 2 pm.
The opening and subsequent closing of shops has brought forth the inadequate planning on the part of the excise department. There are 206 IMFL or commonly called ‘English’ liquor shops and 198 country or deshi liquor shops in Jaipur. Jaipur falls in a red zone and shops are not to be opened in containment and curfew zones.
Seeing the number of shops it is quite impossible to provide police deployment at every shop. Further the Jaipur police has been a failure at ensuring lockdown even in curfew affected areas. And so there is no way to ensure that people from these zones do not move out to other areas and spread infection.
Meanwhile Pooja Chabra, national President of the Rashtriya Sharabbandi Aandolan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Ashok Gehlot to reconsider the decision of opening liquor shops. She said that people are struggling to ensure food during these difficult times and liquor is not a priority. She added that there have been practically no cases related to women atrocities and rapes reported in the media during the period of lockdown which could largely be attributed to unavailability of liquor. She urged the PM and CM to take a decision in public interest and ensure that liquor shops are not opened.
Pooja Chabra’s father in law Gurusharan Chhabra, a former MLA, had died in while on fast unto death demanding complete ban on liquor. He had started his fast on October 2 and died on November 3, 2015. She has been campaigning for prohibition and managed to officially ensure it in several villages of Rajasthan through public voting for prohibition.