Social Distancing Challenge At Liquor Shops, Some Outlets Shut Again
New Delhi: Long queues were seen outside liquor stores this morning as several states across India decided to re-open the outlets that were closed when a "total lockdown" began on March 25 to check the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19. Last week, as the shutdown was extended for a second time by another two weeks, the Home Ministry said that except in containment areas, standalone liquor shops can re-open across the country. These shops should not be located in markets and malls in urban areas, the government said, adding that minimum six-feet social distancing should be ensured, while no more than five people will be allowed inside a shop at a time.
Here are top 10 developments in this big story:
In Delhi, huge crowds were seen outside shops in some parts of the city after more than 100 liquor shops - located outside the containment zones- were allowed to re-open. In east Delhi, police were forced to shut shops as people flouted social distancing norms. Cops were seen resorting to use of force in areas such as Kashmere Gate and Narela where huge number of people gathered in groups. The national capital that has over 90 containment zones has reported over 4,000 COVID-19 cases, 64 deaths.
In neighboring Haryana, the shops remain shut as the district excise and taxation department has not received any fresh directive from the state government. Like Haryana, Punjab has also not allowed the resumption of sale of alcohol.
In Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country, only five shops selling non-essential items are allowed in each lane. "Even in the Red zone districts, there are some areas where coronavirus infection has been not prevalent since over a month now. Such non-containment areas will have some relaxations, wherein the shops selling non-essential commodities, like clothes, footwear, liquor, stationery, among others will be opened," Bhushan Gagrani, Maharashtra Principal Secretary, told reporters on Sunday.
Liquor shops have been allowed to open across Uttar Pradesh between 10 am and 7 pm as restrictions are eased today; social distancing has to be ensured. In state capital Lucknow, long lines were seen outside stores before they opened. Senior excise department officials also inspected liquor shops across the city to ensure social distancing norms were being followed. In rural parts, no queues were seen outside outlets. Excise is a major revenue generator for the state, second only to GST collections. In April, excise collections were only a little over 1 per cent of the projected collections by the state government. Many say this has prompted the re-opening of liquor shops acorss the state.
Madhya Pradesh will re-open the outlets from tomorrow except in cities like Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain that are severely-hit by the outbreak
Hours before the shutters went up, queues were seen outside many outlets in Karnataka this morning where shops have been allowed to open between 9 am to 7 pm. No snacks and water will be sold in the liquor shops, social distancing must be maintained and masks must be used by the people selling liquor at the shops, the state government has said.
Andhra Pradesh will allow the sale of alcohol with a prohibition tax. "We are taking the measure to open liquor shops in the state for revenue consideration but the government is concerned about the bad effects of alcohol consumption. So we are imposing prohibition tax on that, the amount will be decided soon," Rajat Bhargava, Special Chief Secretary told reporters on Sunday, news agency ANI reported. Around 3,500 outlets have been permitted to re-open.
Puducherry has not taken a decision on re-opening the liquor stores, ANI reported.
Himachal Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan are among other states where these outlets have been allowed to re-open from today.
Across India, the COVID-19 count has crossed 40,000-mark, more than 1,300 people have died.
(Inputs and image from ndtv.com)
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