Despite the State Election Commission’s directive to the excise officials to close down the belt shops in the district with the panchayat elections-related Model Code of Conduct coming into force, the belt shops are thriving.
This is because the corrupt excise officials perhaps have chosen to ignore the SEC directive except for carrying out some perfunctory raids on some toddy shops and hooch dens In fact, while the business of these belt shops has increased from the hitherto Rs 25,000-Rs 35,000 a day after the commencement of the nomination process for the panchayat elections, even kirana shops have started selling liquor in some places. The demand for liquor is bound to increase once the election campaign begins.
However, the police raided some belt shops and seized more than Rs 1 lakh worth liquor and filed cases against them. On Saturday, the police closed some regular liquor shops in Asifabad mandal and filed cases against them for violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
Belt shops and non-duty paid liquor shops get liquor from Maharashtra with the help of political leaders. Excise officials posted at the RTO check-posts and integrated border check-posts allow free passage to the liquor-laden vehicles from across the border after accepting bribes from the vehicle drivers or others in the vehicles. Incidentally, in the last six months, the excise police filed only six cases related to belt shops.
Of the 206 liquor shops in the district, 117 shop-owners have taken permission for permit rooms as they have rooms attached to the shops. The remaining 89 - many of which are located on the National Highway 7-- which do not have attached rooms also have paid money for the ‘permit rooms’. These shops are diverting their extra stock to the belt shops.