MUMBAI: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray here on Thursday asked the state government to drop 'moral issues' and permit liquor shops and restaurants to resume forthwith to enable it earn badly-needed revenue for its near-empty coffers.
In a letter to his cousin and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the MNS chief said since March 18, the state was in lockdown -- first till March 31, then till April 14 and now extended to May 3 -- with no certainty when it would be lifted.
In such times, there was no harm in keeping this option (wine shops) open since it's not intended to cater to the needs of the alcohol consumers but to start generating income for the government, Raj Thackeray said.
"The excise duty generated for the state via liquor amounts to Rs 41.66 crore daily, or Rs 1,250 crore monthly and Rs 14,000 crore yearly," he said.
In view of the 35 days of lockdown till now and future extensions, the loss of revenue from this sector could be calculated till now and also the future losses that might happen if the shutdown was prolonged, he said.
"It's not that there was a liquor ban in our state and we are asking to remove that. Prior to lockdown, the wine shops were open. The state government should not try to get caught in some moral issues at such a crucial time and take the necessary action," Raj urged Uddhav.
His statement came a couple of days after Health Minister Rajesh Tope made an open-ended statement that there should be no problems in permitting liquor shops, provided they followed social distancing norms.
Taking up cudgels on behalf of restaurants, Raj said big and small eateries were a sheer necessity in Mumbai where millions live on the affordable 'rice plate'.
Besides, there are homes that need their services as they don't have the supplies or resources for cooking meals, and the government must consider this category also.
Touching upon other essentials like food, vegetables and fruits, he said while these were open and available, they needed to be organised and coordinated to revive the economic cycle.
The MNS said it pertained not just to Maharashtra but also all other states since when and how much central assistance would come was uncertain.
"Let's face the reality and find solutions instead. The need of the hour is to be economically self-reliant and this solution provided needs to be taken seriously," said Raj Thackeray.