PUDUCHERRY: Puducherry witnessed unprecedented sales of liquor worth Rs 20.4 crore in the past three days, following the relaxation of the lockdown after 40 days. On the opening day, sales of Rs 7.4 crore were registered followed by Rs 6 crore on June 9 and Rs 7 crore on June 10, according to official sources.
This is double the normal sales in Puducherry. According to official sources, Puducherry used to have liquor sales of Rs 3.5 crore to Rs 4 crore per day when along with liquor shops, all bars were also open. Now though liquor shops have opened after 40 days following lockdown relaxations, bars have not been permitted to function.
Despite this, such huge sales have been recorded as not only locals but tipplers from neighbouring Tamil Nadu have flocked to Puducherry to purchase liquor as the Tamil Nadu government is yet to reopen Tasmac shops. In fact three persons from Tamil Nadu were caught smuggling liquor in an ambulance on Friday.
Besides, there was apprehension among the public that liquor shops may be closed again, which made them purchase in bulk.
The withdrawal of the Special Excise duty (SED) (corona tax) on liquor by the Excise department in April also made it cheaper, which attracted tipplers.
A large number of people thronged liquor shops on the borders of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and police have been finding it tough to emsure that they stay in the queue and maintain social distancing. On one occasion, the police had to resort to a mild lathicharge at a liquor shop in Soriyankuppam bordering Cuddalore to control the crowd.
The sales have not only made liquor merchants happy, but also the government as excise is the second largest revenue grosser for Puducherry. The only concern is that COVID cases could rise due to such crowds. The Deputy Commissioner (Excise) T Sudhakar has been going on rounds along with excise and police personnel to ensure compliance with COVID safety protocols and ensure that cases do not spike.
While opposition parties including former Chief Minister V Narayanasamy have criticised the government for permitting liquor sales, it is expected that after the initial rush, sales will normalise within the next few days.