On the day Punjab government allowed liquor shops to operate with a provision of home delivery of liquor, most contractors in the state boycotted the government move and preferred to keep their vends shut.
While vends in Mohali and Ropar were opened, a number of vends in other parts of the state did not operate seeking the state government to review the Excise policy in view of the COVID-19 lockdown and the economy suffering a setback.
The home delivery option of the state government did not find favour with the contractors who chose to keep shops shut.
Varinder Sharma, an office bearer of Liquor Contractors Association said, “Only 10 per cent of vends in the state opened. They just wanted to be following the government orders. Otherwise there is no point opening the vends and then home deliver two litres of liquor,” he said.
He added that stores in Mohali, Ropar and a few shops in Bathinda opened up. “In rest of the state including Ludhiana, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Patiala and Sangrur, most of the vends remained shut,” said Sharma.
Inderpal Singh, another contractor, said that the seeing the response , the Excise Commissioner, Punjab has called the contractors in his office on Friday for a meeting.
“Let us see what comes up. But we are certain that we will not change our stand till the government listens to us. For a small and large group of licensed vends, the everyday licence fee that we owe to the government turns out to be between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh. The same amount is spent on purchase of liquor. How much money do you think we are going to make to pay the government so much? In the current scenario when no function is being organised, people have no money for even food, and the economy has suffered a setback, do you think people will spend on liquor?”
The contractors have been asking the government to reduce the licence fee in view of the fact that their business was set to suffer.
These contractors are also up in arms against the government for allowing the home delivery through phone calls. “We cannot handle this. For instance in a city like Ludhiana, it is difficult to locate addresses in maze like streets of old city. Do you think it is advisable for a delivery boy to spend two hours on two litres of liquor? Moreover, what if these delivery boys start operating their own delivery system? It will only end in creating a parallel system and encourage smuggling,” said Sharma.
The contractors claimed that unlike Delhi where there are not as many vends as in Punjab, there is no sense in allowing home delivery. “There are 5,800 vends in Punjab. Every city has about 300 shops. There is a vend in every nook and cranny. Why is the home delivery option needed?” questioned Sharma, adding there was no rush at the shops opening in Punjab unlike in other states as people had already hoarded their liquor. “Nobody, in Punjab ran to buy liquor. Here people are not like other cities. They keep crates instead of buying their daily quota. Plus, the liquor was being sold clandestinely during curfew,” said Sharma.