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State governments are dependent on alcohol revenue

wine shop, liquor shop, mumbai, maharashtra, alcohol, liquor, drinks, lockdown, revenue, revenue department, excise, pardeshi
Photo: Akshay Redij / Afternoon Voice

The simplification of the lockdown trials came with its own set of challenges for police personnel as they struggled to manage the crowds outside liquor shops in the city, they had to resort to lathi-charge to bring the situation under control. Especially, near the slum areas controlling large crowd and maintaining social distancing was big issue. With the Home Ministry allowing private vehicles in all zones with restrictions, traffic is back on the roads in cities — a departure from the peculiar quiet that had descended over them during the 40-day lockdown. While the restrictions have not been eased in containment areas, movement of private vehicles has been allowed in red zones with two passengers other than the driver for cars (earlier it was just one passenger in all zones) and no pillion rider for motorcycles. With the never-ending queues and long waits, some buyers started standing in lines from midnight itself.

In April, excise collections were only a little over 1 percent of the projected collections by the state government. Many say this has prompted the re-opening of liquor stores. State governments are increasingly relying on alcohol revenue to pay their bills. Roughly one-fifth of most State government budgets are funded by liquor. And, that share is progressively going up by the year. The alcohol industry is one of the biggest industries in India and it is believed to bring in a lot of money and profits.

A Social Activist and Naturopath Sangita Almadi told Afternoon Voice, “During the lockdown period, the domestic violence cases are on the rise. The government should have waited till relaxing lockdown before reopening liquor shops, an extended period of two weeks with alcohol supply can boost disharmony in families. Moreover, people are already in short of funds, but now the male members of the house will give more importance to their booze than other priorities.”

Vikas Kumar Gunjan, General manager in US-based Telematics company said, “Restriction on Liquor during the lockdown was a very poorly judged decision by the government. First of all, in India Alcohol comes under essential food items. Secondly, people are not very keen to change their food habits, be it any situation. The fact of the matter is that during the lockdown also people who had alcohol as an essential part of their food/drinking habits managed to get it through various resources. Is it approaching a friend keeping the stock or a bar & restaurant guy or a known person from liquor & wine shop? People managed to get their booze at prices as many as five times high than the actual. The result was people who could have pumped the money into the market during this crisis threw it into the pockets of black marketers that resulted in huge revenue loss to the government. The major portion of revenue for state government comes from the taxes on liquor and petroleum products. If at all the intent was of imposing social distancing the government could have come up with innovative ideas like making liquor supply mandatory by home delivery. Be it through aggregators or by giving passes to liquor shop delivery guys by charging extra money to the customers. This could have served the purpose of social distancing by restricting crowds at liquor shops and giving extra revenue to the states rather than losing the revenue at once. For compliance, they could have even used the UID while delivering. There could have been many measures saving the pockets of taxpayers and government coffers.”

wine shop, liquor shop, mumbai, maharashtra, alcohol, liquor, drinks, lockdown, revenue, revenue department, excise, pardeshi

Social Worker Navnath Kardade says, “Opening up wine shops is a wrong decision because you feel you shall generate a revenue of 50 crores per day. But in this process, even if 50 patients are infected with corona virus, imagine the risk you are creating. Although alcohol sale was officially stopped during lockdown, there has been tremendous sale in black, and no doubt that revenue also must have reached the govt. But for revenue if you are opening wine shops, then you are playing with human life and will have to bear the repercussions of this decision. Also, alcohol is available all the time. Even though you have created green and red zones and selling alcohol in green zone, it is easily possible to get the red zone alcohol into green zone. During lockdown, when huge alcohol sales were happening, the government should have taken very strict action at that point itself. The lockdown decision of closing alcohol shops should have been continued in the extended lockdown period also to avoid playing with human life.”

Meanwhile, the Consulting advocates to file a PIL to prohibit sell of liquor to those who don’t have permits to prevent black marketing by punters and only permit holders would be getting quota. Legally wine shops are supposed to sell only after verifying permits. So far, the government has not scrapped permits system but rather made easier.

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