Chaos prevailed outside some liquor vends on Monday after 158 outlets opened up across the city for the first time since the lockdown was announced by the Delhi government on March 23.
On Monday evening, the Delhi government decided to levy a special Corona fee — 70% of the maximum retail price — on alcohol across all outlets.
Police sources said the chaos was due to a communication gap between the Delhi Excise Department and the force regarding the decision to open a few shops.
Information regarding the state government’s decision to open the shops was communicated to the police on Monday by Excise Commissioner Ravi Dhawan. “Government corporations (the four that are allowed to open shops, provided they are not located in malls and market complexes) have informed that the local police are not allowing shops to open… It is requested that directions may be conveyed to the field functionaries that liquor vends of the four government corporations… should be allowed to function from 9 am to 6.30 pm,” Dhawan wrote to the Commissioner of Delhi Police.
Several liquor vends had to be shut down hours after they reopened as scores of people huddled outside. In some areas, police resorted to lathi charge to disperse crowds.
Delhi Police’s Special Branch later prepared a report and suggested that the timing for sale of alcohol be extended.
“The timing for sale of wine may be extended to avoid the crowd and sufficient stock of liquor should be available in shops as people will purchase more than their requirement,” the report said.
On Sunday, CM Arvind Kejriwal had said Delhi was ready to reopen businesses and it was bleeding financially without any income. Delhi earns an average of Rs 500 crore from excise collections each month.
Sources told The Indian Express that several district police forces had a meeting last evening where they discussed opening essentials services, but there was consensus that liquor shops should not be opened.
In areas such as Mayur Vihar, Vasant Vihar, Dwarka, Jyoti Nagar, Dayalpur, Karol Bagh, Darya Ganj and DB Gupta Road, shops were shut as people failed to maintain social distancing norms.
Some shops were allowed to reopen on the condition that staff would make sure norms were followed.Many areas, including Rohini, Krishna Nagar and Karol Bagh saw people queuing up since 7 am.
At Trilokpuri and Vishwas Nagar, police had to resort to mild lathi charge. Most liquor shops capped sales to seven bottles per person to prevent hoarding.
A staff member at a store in Mayur Vihar said, “If the idea is to ensure social distancing, all shops should be opened.”
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