MANGALURU: Liquor vendors in Dakshina Kannada have found a way round the Supreme Court ban on sale of alcohol along national highways, which led to the closure of 150 bars and liquor shops in the district.
In Sullia town for instance they have tied up with petty shops and small non-vegetarian eateries along the highways to peddle booze to known clientele for a premium.
The shops are given a 30-40 per cent discount on the price of each bottle, which they then sell for a markup as high as 60 per cent. Most of the customers are daily-wage workers from villages lining the highways, and truckers stopping in the lay-bys. They don't mind paying more as it saves them the trouble of scouting for a regular vend 500 m beyond the highway or in the next big town.
The highway booze ban has spawned another set of peddlers. These are hustlers on bikes, autorickshaws and mini-vans wheels who park with their stock by the roadside. Motorists slow down at the sight of these mobile vends and the sales are fast and furtive.
Moreover, the sale is unrestricted. Earlier, one could not buy more than 4.5 litres of liquor at a time from a shop but now there's no such limit.
Ganesh Shetty, president of the Wine Merchants Association of Dakshina Kannada, said, "Though the intention behind the ban on liquor near national highways may be good, it has paved the way for illegal sale. We met chief minister Siddaramaiah recently and he informed us that the government is yet to receive a copy of the Supreme Court order. However, we still have hope that the state government will help us reopen our businesses soon," he said.
Dakshina Kannada district excise commissioner Khurshid Begum said her office has not received they did receive complaints on the clandestine sale.
"But we did not come across any illegality. If the public comes across such instances, should inform the nearest police station or the Excise Department," she said.