People throng outside a wine shop at Santacruz on Tuesday
People throng outside a wine shop at Santacruz on Tuesday
BL Soni - Free Press Journal

On Tuesday night, Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi issued a notification revoking permission granted to liquor shops, which will remain shut until further orders.

Under the revised rules, ‘no such permission for opening of five shops which are non-essential to be given and the senior Police inspectors will ensure compliance of these orders in toto.’

Dry days are back: Why BMC decided to close wine shops in Mumbai during Lockdown 3.0
Dry days are back: Why BMC decided to close wine shops in Mumbai during Lockdown 3.0

On Monday, the Maharashtra government permitted liquor shops to resume business, including in red zones like Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, and Pune. However, the state added that areas that were containment areas would still be quarantined.

Following this, the state excise department estimated that 843 establishments that included 241 country liquor shops, 328 foreign liquor shops and 274 beer shops in Mumbai and Mumbai suburban would be open starting Monday.

However, residents making a beeline for the wine shops made a mockery of the idea of social distancing, with people almost sticking to each other in certain parts of the state.

In some areas of Mumbai, police had to intervene and force-shut the shops as tipplers eagerly waiting to get their fill of liquor, paid no heed to all norms and thronged upon the shops.

Old and young, everyone could be seen waiting outside shops for hours but not all could go home with their favourite brand as many had to return empty-handed.

At Santacruz, tipplers queued up outside two shops on SV Road near Khira Nagar, initially following the rules, however, as the day progressed, crowd management became as task and police had to intervene to maintain social distancing norms.

Dry days are back: Why BMC decided to close wine shops in Mumbai during Lockdown 3.0
BL Soni - Free Press Journal

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, “Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid/decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community. This eventually leads to decrease in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease.”

However, states are allowed to implement their own social distancing norms, depending on the coronavirus situation in their cities and towns.

Notably, the Chhattisgarh government has opened a portal where people can buy alcohol online. However, the catch is that residents living in green zones can only make the purchase. While the Maharashtra government has not made such a decision, they could have considered the option or done something similar to Delhi’s corona tax imposed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Although Kejriwal has been criticised for imposing the tax, people have thronged outside liquor shops to buy their favourite brands at nearly double the prize. The corona tax is an additional 70 per cent of the MRP. While cities like Mumbai already charge a hefty amount when it comes to alcohol, they could have added something similar like a corona tax to prevent large crowds from gathering.

The Maharashtra excise department expects a daily estimate of Rs 110 crore from wine shops every day. However, with Mumbai and its suburban areas shutting down shops thanks to the BMC order, that revenue is going to witness a significant decrease.

And even if the lockdown is completely lifted by May 18, chances are high that the BMC may issue a special order for wine shops that include token numbers and a maximum number of sales in a day.

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