To circumvent SC order on liquor stores: Bengal govt may denotify more state highways

The ban on liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways had come at a time when the state was relying heavily on liquor sales.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Kolkata | Published: April 9, 2017 1:08 am

The State government is planning to denotify stretches of state highways that came up after bypasses were laid connecting national highways to various districts. This move along with those denotified in March, officials said, could effectively allow 70% of the liquor shops, which had closed following the Supreme Court order, to reopen.

The ban on liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways had come at a time when the state was relying heavily on liquor sales. In fact, the government had decided to enter into the wholesale distribution of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL).

A senior government officials said, “After the SC order, 1,800 shops that generated over Rs 1,000 crore, in excise revenue, shut.” While this may be tiny compared to the state’s outstanding debt of Rs 3 trillion, it is a vital part of its ambitious “humane governance”.

In February’s budget Finance Minister Amit Mitra had announced an almost 14 per cent increase in expenditure. To afford this, officials said, collections from excise and tax were vital.

Meanwhile process for issuing licences has been simplified, said officials. “Now the applications can be addressed directly to Excise commissioner,” said an officer from the excise department. He added that the state had set a deadline of April 15 for issuing licences.

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