Chandigarh: The Punjab government’s decision to allow home delivery of liquor kicked up a political row just hours after it made the announcement Wednesday when a deputy commissioner ordered temples and gurdwaras to publicise the decision.
The Punjab government’s generic order was circulated down to the deputy commissioners for more specific instructions related to their districts, keeping in view the containment zones and the Covid-19 situation in their areas.
While following these orders, deputy commissioner of Sri Muktsar Sahib, S.K. Arvind Kumar, stated late Wednesday that since the matter (regarding home delivery of liquor) was of utmost significance and needed to be widely publicised, apart from spreading the word through the press, announcements should be made from all religious places as well.
In rural Punjab, it is a well-established practice to make important government announcements through loudspeakers in the village gurdwaras and temples.
But the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was quick to take on the government over the deputy commissioner’s orders. In a video message, SAD general secretary Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said that the order was sacrilegious and insulted religious institutions. He demanded that the government hold an inquiry into how the orders were issued and take action against the erring officers.
In his tweet Dr Cheema tagged the orders of the deputy commissioner.
“You have not only insulted the holy land of the forty martyrs (of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, on whose name Muktsar district is named) but also all the religious places in the state,” said Cheema addressing Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
SAD strongly condemned the orders of DC Sri Mukatsar Sahib ordering all religious places to announce home delivery of liquor through their loud speakers. This order is shameful and amounts to sacrilege of all religious places. @CMOPb to immediately withdraw and take strict action pic.twitter.com/0tAxlB0qbh
— Dr Daljit S Cheema (@drcheemasad) May 6, 2020
Opening up of liquor vends
The state government had Wednesday decided that apart from opening up liquor vends during curfew relaxation hours these vends will also be allowed to deliver liquor at home capping the limit to two litres of alcohol per order.
While some districts decided to allow the home delivery of liquor simultaneously with the opening of the vends, in other districts it was decided that the home delivery be allowed after the vends closed at the end of curfew relaxation hours. In some districts, it was decided to not allow vends to open at all but only have liquor delivered at home.
The vends will be allowed to be open during the curfew exemption hours, which are from 7 am to 3 pm. “The vends, however, will only open at 9 am in accordance with the state excise policy,” said a senior officer of the excise department. The timings of delivery of liquor will be decided by the deputy commissioner but it would be done only through designated delivery boys who will be issued special cards by the excise department.
Even the vehicle used by the delivery person will have to be authorised by the excise department to ensure that the home delivery order is not misused to smuggle liquor.
At the liquor vends, the government has asked that all social distancing norms be followed and not more than five people are allowed to gather in the shop.
For the financial year 2019-20, Punjab had more than 5,300 liquor vends functioning in the state. “More than 60 per cent of these vends have renewed their contract with the Punjab government,” the excise officer said.
He added that according to the order issued by the government on Wednesday, all the contractors who had deposited 50 per cent of the licence fee have been allowed to start their operations.