The Gujarat government is going all out to promote the state as “tourist friendly”, especially with delegates from over 125 countries expected to gather in Gandhinagar for two major international events in January next year — the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit 2015. So much so, that it is getting ready to roll out an online facility that will make purchase of liquor much more simpler than ever before.
In a state where total prohibition has been in place since 1960, the new facility, which was first announced last July, will bring perceptible changes: Permits can be applied for and issued online; hotel managers will be empowered to verify the documents needed for foreign tourists; and not the least, these permits will no longer record applicants as “drunkards”. Liquor licences have also been issued to seven new outlets this year.
Roopwant Singh, Director of Prohibition and Excise, told The Indian Express, “The software that issues online permits is ready. We are working on the payment gateway which will be ready shortly.” He said permits for visitors from other states will also be available online.
Singh said the department had decided to allow hotel managers to issue tourist liquor permits, apart from local police. “This was decided a week ago by the Home Department and we will convey it further down. Earlier, we had the system of a sub-inspector issuing the same, as the stock and its quality had to be checked. Now there is an integrated stock management system, which is now managed electronically, so this progressive step has also been taken.”
Significantly, the new online application form does not have the tag “daarudiya” (drunkard) in Gujarati and “sharaabi” in Hindi. The earlier forms required applicants to fill in their names after “Daarudiyo nu naam” (Name of the alcoholic), and their fathers’ name.
The new permit simply asks for the applicants’ name under the slot “Full name” while group permits require the name of the organisation to be filled in.
Currently, there are 43 shops or outlets across Gujarat with liquor licences; Ahmedabad has seven. The new Anandiben Patel government granted liquor licences to four hotels in the city, including The Metropole, Regenta Hotel, The Grand Bhagwati and Courtyard Marriott and ITC Hotel.
S K Nanda, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) denied that the granting of licences amounted to any “easing of prohibition norms”. “Licences to new hotels have been given after a long time but still only permit holders can buy. Yes, these are the hotels where we expect the delegations of both events to stay, and an in-house wine shop would be convenient,” he said.
“The other change we have brought in is that if a police inspector on duty at a hotel’s wine shop is not present, the hotel manager can check [an applicant’s] documents such as permit card along with passports and visas to do the needful. No longer will there be a need to wait for the police to arrive and verify the documents.”
Gaurav Singh, General Manager of Courtyard Mariott, confirmed that the hotel received permission last month for the sale of liquor. Narendra Somani, CMD of The Grand Bhagwati, said, “We had applied for a liquor shop permit almost 10 years back; the approval came four months back.” Girish Ganeshan, General Manager of 5-star hotel Hyatt Ahmedabad, said, “We have applied for permission to sell liquor at the hotel and are awaiting approval from the Home Department’s Prohibition and Excise department.”