In the first step towards total prohibition, the Andhra Pradesh government has taken over 3,500 liquor shops across the state, which will be run by the AP State Beverages Corporation. The new excise policy was issued on October 1, even as the government said it wants total prohibition within a year.
To gradually cut availability and consumption, liquor shops will stay open from 10 am to 9 pm and later reduced to just 3-4 hours a day. In the last four months, the government has started shutting down liquor shops and the number is currently down to 3,500 shops from 4,380. Liquor sales and consumption has decreased by 18 per cent in the last four months since the YSR Congress Party came to power under Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. Read in Tamil
Deputy Chief Minister (Excise) K Narayana Swamy said that within a year, total prohibition would be implemented in the state. “We took over 475 liquor shops last month on a trial basis. Now, we have taken over all the liquor shops as the licences expired on October 1. Since Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy took over as CM on May 30, our government has closed down all 43,000 illegal and illicit liquor shops functioning mostly in rural areas,” he said.
“This was Jagan’s promise to people during his padayatra. Gradually, we will make liquor unavailable and put a total ban on sale and consumption in the state,’’ he said. The minister said that the previous Telugu Desam Party had not stopped the mushrooming of illicit liquor shops due to which consumption of liquor increased.
“People lost their livelihood and homes were wrecked due to increased alcoholism. During his padayatra, lakhs of women pleaded with him to close down all liquor shops and implement prohibition. We have started fulfilling our poll promise,’’ he said.
Between May 30 and September 30, 2, 872 cases were registered and 2,928 people arrested for allegedly operating illegal liquor shops. The state has registered 4,788 cases of brewing illicit liquor arrested 2,834 people.
Incidentally, between January 1 and September 30, AP earned excise revenue of Rs 3,326.68 crores. The excise revenue stood at Rs 3,839 crore in 2014-15 and rose to Rs 5,789.67 crore in 2017-18.
Reddy during his padayatra promised to ban alcohol across the state in phases. To keep his promise, the government has taken a step by introducing government-run alcohol shops, said Narayana Swamy.
“AP Beverages Corporation will manage all these alcohol shops. So far, 3,448 shops have been taken for lease. The alcohol shops will run between 10 am to 9 pm. Later, timing will be reduced to 11 am to 7 pm and gradually, all shops will be closed. The drinking rooms attached to most liquor shops have already been closed. Timings of bars will also be reduced,” said an official of the AP Beverages Corporation.
Taking over liquor shops from private owners who were given licenses earlier, the government recruited 3,500 supervisors and 8,033 salesmen to run the alcohol shops until they are closed down. The government will also give alternate employment to those dependent on alcohol shops.
Reddy also ordered the recruitment of night watchmen to around neighbourhoods to check if liquor was being sold illegally.
About 680 constables for Excise department are being recruited as the department faces staff shortage to implement the new excise policy and total prohibition. “The government is also in the process of setting up de-addiction centres in all government hospitals across the state,’’ said Narayana Swamy.