HOTELS along the Jungli Maharaj Road (J M Road) faced action on Wednesday as officials from the state excise department sealed their liquor cabinet to enforce the Supreme Court’s liquor ban order. Even as hoteliers protested against the action, excise officials said they took action following fresh alignment maps made available to them by the Public Works Department (PWD).
Officials from the excise and other government departments have been working over time to implement the alcohol ban imposed by the Supreme Court around 20 days back. The apex court had ordered a blanket ban on all establishments serving liquor within 500 metres of the state and national highways.
The problem for Pune was complicated due to the apparent failure of the PWD to denotify arterial roads from their earlier status as state highways. These roads, while originally constructed by the PWD, have been under the supervision of the civic bodies who have been treating them as roads mentioned in the development plan (DP).
Following the apex court’s decision, establishments within 500 metres of these roads were also forced to shut shop.
Commenting about the action, Mohan Varde, Superintendent of Excise (Pune), said the J M Road is part of the Indore-Roha Highway. “The J M Road is part of the State Highway 5 — the Ahmednagar-Paud Highway. Also, this highway is part of the proposed National Highway 753 F, so action was necessary,” he said.
The delay in action, Varde said, was due to some grey areas in the alignment maps of the highway. “In response to our request, the PWD has issued fresh alignment of the highway and based on that the action was taken,” he said.
As per the alignment received by the PWD, areas like Chandanagar, Yerawada, Ruby Hall, Sancheti Chowk, RTO, Ruby Hall, J M Road, Karve Road, Chandni Chowk and other areas fall on the designated road.
Varde said this was the only road which had some ambiguity so enforcement of the ban took some time. Of the 2,500 establishments which used to serve liquor in the district, 1,600 had to shut down following the liquor ban.
As anticipated, Wednesday’s action was resented by hoteliers who wondered at the 20-day gap. The manager of a hotel located near Institute of Engineers, said, “The bar was open till 5.30 pm and then officials from the excise department sealed our liquor cabinet. We will abide by the law, but we have to say that this is unfair. How come authorities suddenly realise that J M Road is a highway? We had seen a rise in our business after many other bars had closed down. But now we will have to face the same situation. We hope the PMC and PWD authorities solve the issue of denotification and we all go back our normal business.”
(with inputs from SUSHANT KULKARNI)