The Andhra Pradesh government has shut down more liquor shops in the state amid the lockdown to discourage liquor consumption as it works towards implementing total prohibition — a poll promise of the YSR Congress party. Nearly 456 shops have been closed now as per an order issued by Special Chief Secretary (Revenue) Dr Rajat Bharghava.
The government has, in effect, reduced the total number of shops by 33 per cent — from 4,380 to 2,934 — after it took over all the liquor shops last October.
The government has increased liquor prices by 75 per cent and reduced the possession limit to three bottles of any size. Laws have been enacted to ensure strict action for violation of the limit or illegal sale of liquor.
A special drive was launched on April 11 to control illicit liquor during the lockdown in which 1,462 cases were lodged and 1,282 people arrested. The government also set up a Special Enforcement Bureau to curb illegal transport and manufacture of liquor and illegal transport of sand.
Deputy Chief Minister (Excise) K Narayana Swamy said Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had promised during his pre-poll padyatra that he will implement prohibition to promote healthy living. “We are fulfilling that promise. We have already shut down 43,000 illegal liquor shops besides cancelling licences of sitting rooms attached to liquor shops. Business hours have been reduced from 10 am to 10 pm to 11 am to 8 pm. And we have drastically increased prices of liquor to discourage people from buying,’’ he said.
Officials said the government started working towards prohibition last October when it took over all 4,380 liquor shops and closed down 880 of them. The AP State Beverages Corporation Ltd took over the shops to curb illegal sale and reduced the business hours. The government also cancelled licences of 310 bars, reducing their number to 530. Officials said that from October 2019 to March 2020, there was a drastic fall in the sale of liquor (24%) and beer (55%).
The government has also initiated measures to control interstate illicit distillation and non-duty liquor trade. Interstate coordination meetings have been held and plans are afoot for joint raids.
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