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Dry spell: 176 liquor vendors shut in Delhi in month and a half

Amid allegations of corruption and impropriety in the implementation of the new liquor policy in Delhi, which has set off a war of words between the L-G and the AAP government, the excise department has been dealing with a larger problem that could impact revenue collection.

Between June 5 and July 18, 176 liquor vends in Delhi shut down and nine out of 32 zones were left unserved, with no shops operating in these areas. (File Photo)

An exodus of liquor vendors from nine zones in the city has led to the shutting down of 176 liquor shops in the national capital between June and July this year.

Amid allegations of corruption and impropriety in the implementation of the new liquor policy in Delhi, which has set off a war of words between the L-G and the AAP government, the excise department has been dealing with a larger problem that could impact revenue collection.

Between June 5 and July 18, 176 liquor vends in Delhi shut down and nine out of 32 zones were left unserved, with no shops operating in these areas. These include Safdarjung Enclave, Vikaspuri, Inderpuri, Rajouri Garden, parts of Mayur Vihar, Preet Vihar, Andrews Ganj and Kalkaji.

The new excise policy was introduced in Delhi in November last year. It made sweeping changes to the nature and functioning of liquor trade in the city. The government exited the customer-end of the trade entirely, shutting all government-run liquor vends, and sale of liquor since then has been handed over exclusively to private players. Before the policy was implemented, there were 849 liquor shops in the city.

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The BJP had staged protests and started campaigns against the government, claiming that the new policy facilitated the opening of many more new liquor shops in the city, and that it wanted to promote alcoholism. On the ground, however, the number of active shops never went past around 650, well below the number that was open before the policy came into effect.

The reasons, experts say, are many. Several shops opened in non-conforming areas such as near schools or places of worship and faced protests from residents. They were eventually forced to shut down. In some cases, new shops opened in an area where there was no demand. The third reason was that despite the policy stating that vendors would be free to offer discounts as they liked, the government clamped down on offers, especially ‘buy one-get one’ schemes that vendors started after the matter went to court.

“All this resulted in a situation where the amount spent by the vendor in getting the licence was higher than the sale, with no foreseeable improvement in coming months. As a result, many players completely exited the business, leaving several zones unserved. This also meant that sales from these areas dropped and there was a general pessimism in the market, which is persisting,” a senior government official said.

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Another official said: “Delhi is a finance surplus state. The liquor policy was expected to make that position more secure. However, we are in a situation where we can’t even keep liquor vends open. This is worrying.”

Meanwhile, the L-G office said it has received complaints from a group of lawyers alleging cartelisation in liquor trade and of the alleged involvement of blacklisted firms in retail. L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena has directed Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to look into complaints and submit a report within two weeks. The L-G has asked the CS to submit the report to CM Arvind Kejriwal too.

The Delhi government spokesperson, when reached for a comment, said, “We welcome any enquiry or investigation. We know there’s no truth to the claims. Delhi government will continue working for the welfare of the public unhindered.”

First published on: 26-07-2022 at 01:47 IST
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