Queue-up to the liquor store on Mall Road. Photo HimachalScape

Though the entire market places opened after 40 days, but the maximum thrust was being noted outside liquor stores of the city today. After a government decision of dividing the country in ‘Red, orange and green’ zones,  and thereafter as per likes of concerned  state governments the market places (Staggered) and offices (30% efficiency) have opened today.

“ Our shop has opened today, hardly 2-3 customers have shown up yet, but lot of crowd are being seen at the neighborhood liquor store,” informed a garment store owner on Mall Road.

Natural, it is; because during ‘Till may 3’ lock-down period food, vegetables and daily needs items were readily available, but liquor shops remained shut down. Many consumers were left high and dry due to the sudden announcement of lock-down, as they could not stock the required quotas. So when today after 40 days these shops opened the rush was eminent; but reportedly, all followed social distancing norms.

A fact; even though the current social fabric turns a hypocritical eye for liquor consumers, but surveys clearly point that states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, Sikkim, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are among-st the largest consumers of alcohol in India (Indian Alcohol Consumption Report 2018).  Yet, interestingly during the lock-down, only a few states out of these requested for permission to open liquor stores, but were denied. And Himachal Pradesh initially while notifying “curfew’ allowed liquor stores to open, but hours later under pressure, pulled back the decision.

Resultant, liquor was sold ‘under hand’, resulting losses to both consumer and State government(s). Found out by HimachalScape during the ‘Till May 3’ lock-down the price for ‘underhand’ liquor was almost double the counter rate. Taking eg. ‘Royal Stag’ a regular liquor priced at Rs 545/ to Rs 550/- on counter was sold at Rs 900/ to Rs 1000/– per bottle during lock-down.

A liquor contractor on condition on anonymity informed that on an average, the liquor sold in Shimla during lock-down was for around Rs 5L per day. “So one can imagine the figure of under hand liquor sold ‘statewide in these 40 days’,” he rued.

Pertinent to mention, that if instead of letting underhand liquor sellers play their act, decision makers would have speculated sale through counter then perhaps it could have added to the revenue. Besides they even had the option of adding some reasonable cess on the price to to add into #COVID-19 fund.

The total revenue earned by the state exchequer from liquor is Rs 1840 crores per annum. Falls to around 153 crores per month. It means that the ‘debt ridden’ poor state has already taken a loss of around Rs 180 crore directly and then also adding cost of sops like exemption of retail licence fee and quota extension, etc, the amount swells to a considerable figure to have lost.

Perhaps lessons are learnt with experience!


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