The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has decided to grant bar licenses to resorts near the religious towns of Maihar and Chitrakoot. The previous BJP government had frowned upon the idea.
Resorts near these towns — classified as ‘religious tourist area’ — will now be granted FL-3-A category license. Similar licenses will also be issued in areas classified as ‘heritage tourist area’, ‘natural tourism area’ and resorts set up near dams and water areas notified by the tourism department for water tourism.
The Kamal Nath government had last month announced that it was easing conditions for resort bar licenses to encourage tourism near sanctuaries and national parks. The minimum room requirement was brought down from ten to five and area from two hectares to one acre. The license fee was reduced to Rs 50,000, Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh per annum, depending on size, from the earlier Rs 2.5 lakh.
However, the fine print became clear with the publication of a Commercial Tax Department notification in the official gazette on Thursday. Sources told The Indian Express that the changes were more sweeping. The government has added religions areas, tourism areas, natural tourism areas and water tourism areas under the FL-3-A category.
From Sanchi, Bhim Betika, Khajuraho, Mandu, Orchha to Pachmarhi to dams like Gandhisagar, Tawa and Bansagar — the new classification makes it much easier to get a resort bar license. Some of these towns would have earlier needed to apply for FL-3 category (hotel bar license), for which the license fee is much higher.
Excise officials said the new classification will prompt many resort owners to seek licenses. The guests used to get liquor on the sly, but the government did not get anything in taxes.
Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava said that in its bid to generate revenue and oblige its supporters, the Congress government was taking liquor to places of worship. “We used to abhor selling not just liquor but also meat in areas declared holy towns. We will raise the matter in the Assembly and bring a calling attention motion,” he said.
Former finance minister Jayant Malaiyya, who also held commercial tax portfolio in the previous government, said the move was prompted by “paiseki maramari” (cash crunch).
Chouhan, who was CM between 2005 and 2018, would often declare that he would not let a single new liquor shop come up in the state. He had banned liquor shops along the Narmada river. Responding to recent policy changes, he had warned that the BJP would not let MP turn into “Madira Pradesh”.
He claimed the BJP was gradually moving towards prohibition but the Congress government was going in the opposite direction.
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