The island of Diu, a popular watering hole located off Una coast of Gujarat, on Monday observed a complete bandh in protest against its “main road” being interpreted as part of National Highway 251 and thereby witnessing closure of liquor vends along it following a Supreme Court order banning sale of liquor within 500 metre of highways. The Diu Chamber of Commerce, hotel and liquor associations as well as local traders joined the one-day general strike and even restaurants remained closed. The associations demanded that administration of the Union Territory treat the road crossing the island — from Ghoghla to Tad checkpost — as a major district road (MDR) and not part of NH 251.
Traders, hoteliers and bar owners, under the banner of MDR Bachavo Samittee, and took out a protest rally from Padmabhushan Cricket Ground to the office of Diu collector. The rally, led by one Bharat Sheth, submitted a memorandum to Diu collector P S Jani and demanded that the road be restored as an MDR. “If within 48 hours the Administration fails to declare the road as as a major district road, we will go on an indefinite hunger trike,” the memorandum stated.
The memorandum argued that the UT administration had wrongly interpreted the March 4, 2014, notification regarding the NH 251 — which connects Bhavnagar to Dwarka and runs along the coastline of Saurasthra. “We had just requested that the NH 251 should connect Diu with the mainland Gujarat. That meant, the NH should only touch Ghoghla and Tad checkposts and not enter the town. Even, existing maps don’t show the NH running through Diu island. Therefore, the local administration is wrongly interpreting the MDR of Diu to be a stretch of NH 251 and imposing the order of the Supreme Court prohibiting sale of liquor along national highways,” said Shyamjibhai Vaishya alias Bhikhabhai, secretary of Diu District Liquor Association (DDLA), a body of liquor traders of Diu.
The 40 sq km island is a major tourist attraction. The UT is also a big watering hole located just a few hundred metres away from mainland Gujarat, where there is a strict Prohibition law in place. The 50,000-odd islanders depend heavily on tourism industry to earn their livelihood. There are around 200 bars and liquor shops and 132 hotels in Diu. “Out of the 132 hotels, around 100 will be affected if the MDR of Diu is considered to be an NH. This can spell doom for Diu,” said Yatin Fugro, president of Diu Hotel Association. The hotel association president also said if the MDR of Diu were to be declared an NH, it would place further restrictions on development activities already hampred by coastal regulation zone, eco-senstive zone of a bird sanctuary and Diu airport.
The administration continued its drive to seal liquor shops in Diu for the third day on Monday. “They are refusing to renew our licences. But, the SC order does not apply to us as the roads in Diu are not NH. We don’t need NH here at all,” added Fugro. Hoteliers said that their business had already started taking hit. “The number of guests at our resort has been low and there have been a few cancellation of bookings also. If the new restrictions are imposed, the hotel industry will be in a crisis,” said Ramji Baria, owner of a resort on Nagoa beach.
The Diu collector could not be reached for comment.