RAIPUR: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s liquor ban policy earlier this month, the BJP-led government in Chhattisgarh has decided to sell liquor through its retail outlets after March 31.
Following the Supreme Court order on not allowing any liquor shop within 500 metres of highways, the state government seems to be apprehensive over the fact that liquor vendors might not be keen to seek licenses for places other than highways where sales are very high.
With an added concern to compensate the loss of revenue, the state government has decided to sell liquor through its stores in areas where private vendors might refrain from conducting business.
The Raman Singh cabinet had decided to bring an ordinance -- Chhattisgarh Excise (Amendment) Ordinance 2017, during the upcoming budget session of the state assembly to create a state-owned undertaking (corporation) for facilitating the sale of both foreign and Indian liquor through government outlets.
The Apex Court on December 15 ordered a ban on liquor sale on all highways across the country and issued a directive not to renew the licenses of existing shops from April 1 this year.
According to an estimate by the state excise department, some 280-odd liquor retail stores presently exist along the highways. There are 712 liquor shops in Chhattisgarh.
State excise minister Amar Agrawal claimed the state-owned corporation will be created as a precautionary step and the plan will be executed if the responses from the vendors remain poor during the auction process.
“What if the illicit liquor and the black market for liquor thrives? We need to find ways to check that and also the revenue loss to the state,” the minister asserted.
The main opposition Congress party however opposes the state government’s move. “It’s ironical that the Raman Singh government on one hand formed Bharat Mata Vahini—women brigade—to confront alcoholism and now decides to create a corporation to encourage the sale of liquor. There could be other ways to generate revenues rather than compromise public health. We will strongly oppose it,” said T S Singhdeo, the leader of opposition.
The former chief minister Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh party cited the government’s decision as “anti-people”. “We condemn it. Instead of preventing alcohol-related crimes, health problems, social nuisance, the government encourages the sale of liquor. It’s objectionable,” said Iqbal Ahmed Rizvi, the media incharge of the party.
“We protest against such initiative of the government, which knows well the
ill-effects of liquor addiction. We demand a total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol,” said Mamta Sharma, a social activist.