Tipplers in most parts of Madhya Pradesh waited in vain for hours outside liquor shops as the standoff between contractors and Madhya Pradesh government over the opening of stores continued for the second day on Tuesday.
While the BJP government has threatened to act against contractors for defying its order to reopen shops from Monday, a majority of contractors want to keep the shutters down for fear of incurring huge losses, mainly due to exclusion of bars and vends
from the government order.
While renewing their licenses for 2020-21, the contractors had paid 25 per cent more fee. They have sought relaxation like reduction in the license fee and slashing of VAT arguing that they have already lost business for a month and are unlikely to make gains given the slide in the economy and the possibility of restrictions being extended by few weeks.
Except for Bhopal, Ujjain and Indore districts, the government had allowed shops to reopen in other 49 districts with certain restrictions. Responding to a petition filed by 30 liquor contractors seeking revision of their contractual terms, the MP high court on Tuesday issued notices and made them returnable on May 19.
Home and Health Minister Narottam Mishra said instead of moving the high court they should have approached the government. Issuing a warning, the minister said the government was thinking of making an alternate arrangement in the event of contractors refusing to open shops.
Excise Commissioner Rajesh Bahuguna told The Indian Express that more than 150 shops had opened in different parts of the state and more are likely to follow suit over the next few days. He said contractors were concerned about a possible slump in sale.
A Hoshangabad-based contractor said the revenue was directly linked to consumption. “People don’t have money, they are scared to step out of their houses, bars and hotels are closed. Maybe they will queue up for the first couple of days because they have been deprived of liquor for 45-odd days but then the queues will disappear,’’ he said.
In their official memorandum, the contractors have cited possible difficulties in enforcing social distancing norms at the shops, exchange of infected currency notes, and tipplers becoming unruly in the absence of guards or police officials. Their memorandum said the excise department can take over the shops and run them till the lockdown restrictions are force and return the shops to the contractors once it’s completely lifted.
A Rajgarh-based distiller asked who will be held responsible if someone gets infected after the liquor is transported from distilleries in red zone to retailers in the green zone.