Liquor shops to open amid lockdown? Maha govt to decide on Monday

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is in a bind over allowing the sale of alcohol and country liquor, or whether to continue with the closure, because of the nationwide lockdown. The trigger is the slow rise in the cases of black marketing and illegal sale of various brands of alcohol and country liquor in different parts of the state. However, our reporter Sanjay Jog later discovered that a decision would only be taken on April 14.

The other reason, apparently, is the suicide of a 38- year-old man in Kerala after he suffered severe withdrawal symptoms following the ban imposed by the government there on liquor sales.

A senior state government officer told FPJ: "There are several representations on allowing the opening of liquor shops to avoid a Kerala-like situation. Besides, it will also curb the illegal sale, especially of spurious liquor, and black marketing.

However, to allow the operation of liquor shops, the government may have to fit it into the essential goods/services category." He informed that a meeting is being called on Monday to discuss the issue and decide.

As per the government’s revised lockdown order issued on March 26, alcohol and country liquor is not an essential commodity. "The government may have to insert a new section to include it in the essential commodity or good category," he noted.

Another officer said that Blenders Pride and Black Label are being sold illegally at prices ranging between Rs 3,500 and Rs 12,000 per bottle. Country liquor is also being overcharged. "Several cases of branded alcohol and country liquor being illegally carried in trucks ferrying essential commodities have come to light.

In the last four days, 593 cases were lodged," the officer added. However, the officer said that some people, who consume alcohol or country liquor regularly, may face the problem of withdrawal symptoms or irritation leading to a serious traumatic condition.

This may lead to domestic violence. The officer admitted that even if the government decides to allow the opening of these shops, it may have to be ready for brickbats and not bouquets. The state government had mobilised Rs 15,323 crore through excise duty in 2018-19. For 2019-20, the government had set a target of Rs 18,000 crore but it may not achieve it due to economic downturn and the lockdown. The government may fall short of Rs 2,700 crore as so far it has mobilised only Rs 15,200 crore.

This may lead to domestic violence. The officer admitted that even if the government decides to allow the opening of these shops, it may have to be ready for brickbats and not bouquets. The state government had mobilised Rs 15,323 crore through excise duty in 2018-19.

For 2019-20, the government had set a target of Rs 18,000 crore but it may not achieve it due to economic downturn and the lockdown. The government may fall short of Rs 2,700 crore as so far it has mobilised only Rs 15,200 crore.

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