Simple put: How UTs next to dry Gujarat affect its policy of prohibition

On April 11, Gujarat HC observed that the Centre should consider merging the Union Territory of Daman with Gujarat for better implementation of the state’s prohibition law.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya, Kamaal Saiyed | Updated: May 1, 2017 12:05:13 am
Photo for representational purpose. Google Maps

When and how did the Union Territories of Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH) come into existence?

Between 1523 and 1559, the Portuguese attacked Daman until Mahmud Shah Begada, the sultan of Gujarat, agreed to cede the port to them. In 1535, Sultan Bahadur Shah had entered into a treaty with Nuno da Cunha to fight off an invasion by the Mughal Emperor Humayun, and allowed da Cunha to build a fortress in Diu. The Portuguese eventually took control of all of Diu island in 1546. They took over DNH in 1783 after a treaty with the Marathas.

In 1954, the United Front of Goans began efforts to drive the Portuguese from DNH. The Indian government refused Portuguese troops rights of passage from Daman to DNH and, in the absence of reinforcements, the Portuguese were forced to surrender. India appointed an administrator, and a Varishtha Panchayat was formed to administer the enclaves. Subsequently, in December 1961, the Indian Army liberated Goa, Daman and Diu. Parliament enacted the Goa, Daman and Diu (Administration) Act, 1962, and declared them a UT. DNH too was also declared a UT the same year. Goa became a state in 1987.

How did the UTs become a watering hole for residents of dry Gujarat?

But for the liquor policy, the culture and language of the UTs is largely that of Gujarat. Diu, spread over 39 sq km, and with a population of 52,000, is 276 km from Rajkot, the biggest city in Saurashtra. Yatin Fugro, president of the Diu Hotel Association and Diu’s biggest liquor wholesaler, said around 70% of tourists are Gujaratis, with people from Saurashtra making weekend trips to the island for a few drinks.

Daman district is spread over 72 sq km and, as per Census 2011, has a population of 1.19 lakh. It is just 123 km from Surat, the second largest city of Gujarat in terms of population after Ahmedabad

DNH covers a larger 491 sq km area, and is home to 3.43 lakh people. The UTs are connected to major Gujarat cities by good highways.

How important is the liquor industry for Daman and Diu?

There are 201 retail outlets and 16 wholesalers in Diu, apart from a distillery. The industry is estimated to be worth Rs 30 crore in the district, and generated excise revenue of Rs 8.71 crore in 2016-17. According to Fugro, Diu’s tourism industry is dependent on its liberal liquor policy. Daman’s liquor revenues are much higher — the Excise Department collected Rs 250 crore in 2016-17.

How much liquor flows into Gujarat from Daman?

Sources in the office of the IGP, Surat Range, which covers Surat, Tapi, Navsari, Valsad and the Dangs districts, claim that some 90% of the liquor seized in this jurisdiction comes from Daman, either by road or by waterways. Top police officers in Gir Somnath district, which shares a border with Diu, say a constant vigil is kept at entry and exit points. Gir Somnath registered 3,753 cases under the prohibition law in 2015, and 3,413 in 2016. Until March this year, 709 cases had been registered. In Amreli, through which major roads to Diu pass, registers 4,000 cases every year on average.

In what context did Justice J B Pardiwala of Gujarat HC make his observation about denotifying Daman as a UT?

After 23 people Vareli village in Surat district died after allegedly consuming spurious liquor in September 2016, Surat IG Shamsher Singh arrested 14 liquor traders. Accused Kanti Tandel, Manoj Patel, Bhanu Tandel and her husband Ramesh — all residents of Daman — moved Gujarat High Court, seeking the quashing of the FIRs. They argued that sale of liquor was not an offence in Daman. On April 11, Justice Pardiwala expressed frustration with the limited results from the prohibition policy: “The prohibition policy in Gujarat state has not been able to yield positive results. The open bars are not found in the public streets, but the cases till date are pending in different Courts in Gujarat, eloquent testimony to the fact that either the policy is not effective or something is wrong with the implementation of law. Out of 3,99,221 criminal cases pending as on 28th February 2017 in Gujarat, 55,645 cases are under Bombay Prohibition Act. It is high time that Central Government should consider denotifying Daman as a part of Union Territory and make it a part of the Gujarat state, so as to make the prohibition Act applicable, which may have its own effect, and more particularly, after the recent amendment in the Act, providing more stringent provision. It is for the central government to consider the issue at the earliest before it is too late.”

 What if the government were to consider taking Justice Pardiwala’s suggestion on board?

Ramakant Khalap, a lawyer from Goa who was union Minister of State for Law and Justice (Independent Charge) in the ministries of Prime Ministers H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral, said, “Parliament has the power to reorganise states. The government can form a States Reorganisation Commission. But such a move can proceed smoothly when there is a popular demand. In a democracy, the will of the people is supreme. The government will first have to ascertain the will of the people of Daman and Diu before any merger can happen. The people of Daman and Diu had decided to stay as a UT in 1987.”

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