Representational image of alcohol bottles | Photo: Pexels
Representational image of alcohol bottles | Photo: Pexels
Text Size:

New Delhi: Under mounting pressure from states, the Narendra Modi government could revisit its guidelines prohibiting the sale of alcohol during the nationwide lockdown, government sources have told ThePrint.

The sources said while Punjab is the only state that had officially written to the Centre seeking permission to sell liquor, several states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and those in the Northeast have informally raised the issue several times in their various meetings with top central government bureaucrats, including the Union cabinet secretary.

“We have been given to believe that the central government could revisit the direction prohibiting the sale of alcohol,” the chief secretary of one of the states that has raised the issue with the Centre told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

The central government is, however, maintaining a silence on this. A senior central government official, who is part of the task force handling the Covid-19 crisis, said: “No decision has been taken on lifting the ban on sale of alcohol.”

Another top state government official, who has raised the matter in meetings with the cabinet secretary, said many states including Punjab, Karnataka and Maharashtra have raised the issues of their revenues taking a hit because of the ban on alcohol sale.

During the first phase of the lockdown between 25 March and 14 April, Assam and Meghalaya had allowed liquor sales. But they had to rescind the decision after the Centre directed them to stop allowing production and sale of alcohol.

Speaking to ThePrint in an exclusive interview, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa recently said the state has suffered a huge revenue loss since the lockdown started, which was forcing it to consider opening liquor outlets.


Also read: Lockdown’s a relief for this Rajasthan village — it has kept Gujarat’s booze tourists away


Why it’s a problem for states

Excise duty on alcohol is one of the biggest revenue earners for many states, and banning its sale at a time when most other economic activity has come to a near halt has further aggravated the financial crunch they are facing.

States have also told the Centre that the ban is becoming counterproductive, as it has resulted in illicit distilling and brewing.

“The business has gone underground, with bootleggers making money,” said a senior state government official.

The official said this not only poses a health risk for the public, but can lead to law and order problems also. “There is no quality check. If people buy spurious liquor, it will end up doing more harm than good,” the official said.

“The state government has to divert its police to check illicit distilling and bootlegging. It’s not feasible at a time when all government agencies have to work in tandem to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” the official added.

Negative impact on health and immunity

A highly placed source in the central government, however, said they took into account the negative impact alcohol consumption could have on health and immunity during the Covid-19 pandemic before issuing the guidelines.

In internal meetings, the source said, an advisory issued by the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe was cited. The advisory states: “At times of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence.”

The Centre was also of the view that allowing liquor sale could lead to people overcrowding at shops and flouting social distancing protocols, a necessary requirement these days to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“There was a thinking that it could lead to a law and order problem,” a senior central government official said.


Also read: Curb on liquor sale: BJP-RSS conservatism or has medical reasons?


Alcohol sale is a state subject

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi said the continued prohibition of liquor supply raises “federal concerns”.

He pointed out that Entry 8 of List II of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution makes “intoxicating liquors, that is to say, the production, manufacture, possession, transport, purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors” a state subject.

The Centre has invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to direct states to prohibit sale of alcohol. But Dwivedi said the object of the Act is limited to taking necessary steps for dealing with a disaster, and cannot supersede the states on matters in the state list.

“Disaster Management Act does not supersede the state governments. It does not bring out a unitary government in the country. The state governments can be thrown out only under Article 356,” he said.

He acknowledged that Entry 29 of the concurrent list does allow the Centre and the states to deal with an epidemic, but added: “This has a limited purpose. You can do all sorts of things for managing the disaster through this power, but nothing beyond that.”

“If retail and wholesale sales of essential articles as well as non-essentials and food deliveries are allowed, can the retailers be prevented from supplying liquor?” he asked.


Also read: Don’t celebrate Bengal, news of home delivery of booze is fake. Be happy with sweets


 

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. Now our country run on wine tax, this is the income of wine it is not good. Where the best ecomnoistt whose can’t give his suggestions in daily earn 700 cror from other sorces and then we fully banned the wine, and close the wine industry, after that if anyone drinkers see then the government pass the order to shoot at shight the drinkers on chonk also with bloody wine makers.
    I can’t accepted our india run on wine income. Same on us. I fight against wine and alcohol.

  2. Revenue is needed to run a state. The centre is not responsive on giving the gst shate to the states on a monthly basis thereby putting them to a lot of hardship. Such being the case the centre does not have the locus standi to decide on this issue. Like any other commodity with all precautions and safety measures the states should be permitted to open up shops without bars so that people can buy and take it to their home. If anyone found drinking outside they should be penalised which will be a lesson to others.

  3. Open Mumbai in mid of May or end but liquor shops should be open immediately. At any condition you’ll will have to open liquor shop in Maharashtra.
    Several countries and doctors would prefer a calibrated approach to liquor access rather than a complete ban on sale, & 90% country in World’s liquors shop are open. Than what is the problem to open liquor shops in Mumbai Maharashtra India. It’s total Dadagiri by India Government.

  4. Pre-historic times liquor was never banned in Indus Valley civilisation too. I guess we live in a democratic country anything in moderation is okay. Specially liquor in excess spoils life, government should limit number of bottles to an individual. Also the revenue loss will affect the working class in future times to come.

  5. Absolutely they should open liquor shops because of bootlegs are spreading all the way peoples lives are in danger first they don’t know what they are consuming and secondly they are paying revenue to black mailers which is Thrice as per the cost of the brands Save Lives Save Revenue

  6. I clearly agree with Mr.Rakesh the central government should confine specifically with powers given under the constitution rather than dictate terms to the state government.This would lead to diluting the very constitution in the guise of the National disaster management Act

  7. Liquor stores should open. First, govt is losing a lot of revenue which it needs badly during this time. Secondly, it has a kind of negative effect on the mental health of the persons who are used to take alcohol daily. Thirdly, it promotes illegal sale of spurious liquor which may lead to the death of people.
    I think the ideology of RSS BJP is preventing this govt from opening the liquor shops .

    • Now it seems that the some govt authorities themselves don’t want to lift the ban because once it is lifted the black marketing will stop which will result into the loss of income of many govt individuals who are taking the undue advantage of their powers to runninh keep the black marketing.

    • Labors are the biggest consumers of alcohol. With no work no money and shops open, what you expect such people to do who can’t control their crave for liquor?
      They will do anything for money. Don’t you see law and order situation in this?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here