Ujjain: The district administration has been penalising the locals in many ways including spot fines for violating the unlock norms but the booze lovers continue to enjoy the liquor of their choice at the ‘bar rooms’ (also known as ahaataas) located adjacent to most of the foreign and country-made liquor shops of the city.
Ironically, such activities have been banned ‘on paper’ across Madhya Pradesh to check spread of the corona virus, but in Ujjain liquor businessmen seemed to be the blue eyed boy of the administration as they continue to operate such illegal activities fearlessly.
After getting tip-offs, Free Press team on Saturday visited a number of such bar rooms located in the city limits.
At most of the places, bouncers of the liquor contractors started arguing with the lenseman as he tried to capture the ongoing activities.
Eventually the photojournalist was not allowed to click any. However, at few outlets his camera managed to capture the atmosphere. At most of these outlets, on-an-average 50 booze lovers were found drinking country-made and foreign-made liquor during 3 to 5 pm. They were found enjoying chilled water, cold drinks, hot bhajiyas, cigarettes, bidis and other chabenas (eatables).
Music played by sound system further elevated the mood of the boozers who were found enjoying the cool breeze from coolers and ACs.
Almost everyone, present in and around the outlets were not wearing face masks or keeping physical distancing.
The stakeholders in the outlets were going about their activities with nonchalance.
‘Be liberal ‘
On being contacted the sources from excise department said that instructions have been issued from the higher ups to be liberal with the liquor contractors and their men as the government has started getting revenue from the excise affairs after tiring efforts.
“After formulating the excise policy at state level and accordingly favouring the select liquor contractor across the state, we have been told to extend all sorts of cooperation to them which also including ignoring faults and even illegalities on the part of liquor contractors and their men,” an excise inspector disclosed.
Likewise, an ADEO (assistant district excise officer) said that they have got fed-up by calling and re-calling liquor tenders and running the liquor shops.
“We are under huge pressure and are obliged to obey the orders for the sake of revenue during Corona time,” said the officer.
Admin fails to respond
For the reasons of the state despite repeated efforts, AC (assistant commissioner) and DC (deputy commissioner) of excise department, Ujjain and even the district collector did not respond to the queries posed by this correspondent.
‘Collector should initiate action’
When contacted State Excise Commissioner Rajeev Chandra Dubey said that as district collector suppose to be the licensing authority he should either penalise the liquor contractor or should cancel his contract on the violation of terms and conditions. According to Dubey, running bar rooms have been banned and still if such activities were being conducted in Ujjain, collector should initiate action immediately.
Firm gets 2 more days to deposit bank guarantee
Meanwhile, it is learnt that district collector Asheesh Singh has granted two more days to Samruddhi Traders to deposit bank guarantee of about Rs 18.50 crore against the liquor license. The present licensee had to submit this amount by July 29, but he was obliged to deposit the same till August 7, but he failed to do so. According to reliable sources, the licensee sought time of two more days, which he was given late on Friday. Now he would have to deposit it by Monday otherwise his license may be terminated. In that condition, the excise department will recall fresh tenders and till the new contract is awarded, the excise department would itself run 141 liquor shops of the district.