Kolkata: Home delivery of liquor during the Covid-19 lockdown is a prospect that would excite many. However, the excitement proved short-lived for West Bengal residents as a viral report was subsequently dismissed as false Wednesday.
A fake WhatsApp forward that appeared to be an internal police communication said the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal had given its go-ahead for the home delivery of liquor in Kolkata from shops as well as bars and restaurants.
A regional channel caught on, with some national news portals reporting the order too.
#IndiaUnderLockdown: @MamataOfficial govt gives permission with restrictions for liquor sale in #Kolkata. From 11 AM to 2 PM the sale can take place & transportation of liquor can take place between 2 PM to 5 PM. Permission needs to be obtained first from the police. pic.twitter.com/VJWdMy0s5T
— NEWS9 (@NEWS9TWEETS) April 8, 2020
Kolkata starts home delivery of liquor ♥
City of joy for a reason
— Debojyoti Basu (@debojyotibasu_) April 8, 2020
However, top civil servants in the state government told ThePrint that no such order had been issued.
A senior excise official said an existing provision for licensee liquor shops under the Bengal Excise Act did allow home delivery of alcohol, but added that it only applied to “normal times”.
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Just another fake forward
The WhatsApp forward suggested orders for liquor may be placed at the shop nearest to one’s home between 11 am and 2 pm.
“From today onwards till lockdown period, liquor will be sold on home delivery basis from on shop/off shop/bar/restaurant/hotel. Public may place orders for buying liquor from their nearest on shop/off shop over the phone between 11am and 2 pm,” the forward read.
“Nobody can be allowed to come to the liquor shop physically and delivery boys will deliver the liquor. Liquor shop owners should approach the respective local police stations for obtaining passes…” it added.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior officer of Kolkata Police, which has been on a crackdown against rumours about the Covid-19 pandemic, said the forward was fake. “We will probe how and from where it was generated,” he added.
Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha also said there was “no such order”.
Sweetmeat order lent credibility to rumour
What lent the forward some credibility was the exception made by the West Bengal government for sweet shops across the state, which were last week allowed to function for some hours following a request from an association representing sweetmeat sellers.
An official who serves as joint director in the state excise department said the state did have the provision for home delivery of liquor, but it didn’t apply to the lockdown period.
“There is a very old provision under the Bengal Excise Act that allows licensee shops to take relevant orders and permissions from the authority concerned and local police stations to deliver liquor at home,” the official said. “But this happens during normal time.”
Another senior official reiterated that no liquor shop, restaurant, bar or hotel was allowed to operate without the government’s permission during the lockdown. “So, the forward is anyway fake,” the official added.
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