LUCKNOW: People on Monday thronged the liquor shops on hordes and long serpentine queues, at some places up to 2-4 km long, were witnessed after a forced sabbatical of 42 days.
With the commencement of lockdown 3.0 on Monday, standalone liquor shops were opened under strict police watch.
With reduced sale timings by three hours, the vends in hotspots or containment zones remained closed. Following the guidelines issued by the excise department, the district administrations had tried to depute excise officers to shops as many as possible.
“The liquor shops have been allowed to open in accordance with the central government guidelines. It was deemed necessary to make up for the huge revenue loss the state is faced with,” said state excise minister Ram Naresh Agnihotri. The minister added that for now one bottle and two beer cans per person was allowed in the state.
“Excise department people were present at all liquor shops during the sale,” said Principal Secretary, Excise, Sanjeev Bhoosreddy, adding that all liquor shops were directed not to have more than five people at any point in time and comply with the norms of social distancing.
People had queued up in front of the shops much before they opened. They were carrying bags, sacs, even huge ruck sacs or children's school bags to buy the bottles in bulk.
“Today, I would bathe in it. That’s all,” said one Rajesh Asthana, who claimed that he had no words to express his satisfaction on the opening of liquor shops. The state government is staring at a loss in excess of Rs 32,00crore due to the extended closure of liquor vends.
Meanwhile, all the vends, whose country-made wholesale liquor licence had expired on March 31 but was unable to clear their stock due to lockdown since March 22, have been given 7 days' time to clear their stock.
The excise department had issued an advisory cautioning the liquor sellers against black marketing and overcharging.
Despite the excise department’s advisory allowing only five people to buy liquor at a time, buyers in many districts threw the norms of social distancing to winds. Many were seen even without masks. Police had to cane-charge the crowd at a few places in the districts.
In the Jalaun district, the authorities ordered the closure of all the shops after they opened in the morning as people crowded and flouted social distancing.