Tipplers may have to stock up on their favorite booze as the Maharashtra government may announce the closure of liquor shops and permit rooms if these continue to draw crowds. There are 4,159 liquor shops, 1,685 foreign liquor shops and 4,947 beer shops across the state. In addition, there are 16,000 permit rooms in Maharashtra. These retail outlets sell about 7.25 crore litres of liquor worth Rs 1,500 crore in a month.
A day after the Maharashtra Government introduced new restrictions which aim at crowd management in the wake of rising Covid cases, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope categorically said on Sunday, if permit rooms/bars and liquor shops get crowded, they will have to be closed. “The government has not taken a decision but it will announce the closure of liquor shops and permit rooms if a large number of people gather despite the restrictions imposed on movement. No movement of people in groups of five or more will be allowed from 5am to 11pm and from 11pm to 5am, except for essential purposes,” he said.
Tope urged tipplers and people in general to strictly observe the restrictions and Covid-appropriate behaviour. He reiterated that the government had not imposed a lockdown but it aims to curb crowding, to control the spread of virus infection.
However, a senior excise department officer told The Free Press Journal, “At present, the timings of liquor shops and permit rooms are governed by the notifications issued by competent authorities like district collectors or municipal commissioners empowered by the state government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. If the government wants to bring in any changes it will be made through the competent authorities at the district level.” He said there was no notification except the government order issued on Saturday.
Tope said that if there would be crowding in religious places, including temples the government was likely to take a decision on their closure. “Avoid large gatherings at a time and keep adequate distance,” he stressed.
Places of worship were closed during the first and second Covid waves, sparking off a verbal duel between Governor B S Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The BJP had staged statewide protests. However, these were finally reopened on the first day of Navratri on October 7 last year.
Further, Tope hinted that the government would introduce more restrictions if the oxygen demand were to shoot up exponentially in the wake of rising Covid cases in the state. “Although oxygen consumption has increased slightly, to 270 metric tonnes from 240 metric tonnes per day, it is not a matter of concern. In the previous peak period of the corona, daily oxygen usage had gone up to 1,700MT. There is no reason to panic,” he said.