Hitting out at the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government for lifting the six-year-old liquor ban in Chandrapur, Pune-based Right To Information activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Vijay Kumbhar said that the State, which had been deferring taking decisions on important issues for some months now, had taken swift action to lift the alcohol ban.
The State Home Department on Tuesday issued the government resolution detailing the guidelines for lifting the liquor ban in Chandrapur.
Mr. Kumbhar said the government had also directed the State excise commissioner to issue necessary guidelines separately at their level to make the process of license execution or renewal transparent, easy and expeditious in case liquor shop owners faced any difficulty in opening their establishments.
The ban had been a showpiece of the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, with Chandrapur then becoming only the third district in the State to go ‘dry’.
However, in January, a meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was already mulling ways to overturn the ban on grounds that it had led to a spurt in the business of spurious liquor — not to mention the heavy monetary losses to the State exchequer as a result of the prohibition.
“The point is that irrespective of which party is in power, any strict implementation of a court ruling banning alcohol is found sorely wanting. While the BJP government may have decreed the ban in Chandrapur in 2015, it had nevertheless found ways to tweak the Supreme Court’s ruling prohibiting the sale of liquor within 500 meters of national and state highways,” Mr. Kumbhar said.
He said that the State government’s motive appeared to promote the interests of the liquor lobby.
A committee headed by former excise commissioner Ramanath Jha had, in its report, pointed to the failure of the ban and the concomitant rampant sale of illicit and spurious liquor. It had said that while the State government had lost on its excise revenue, the high sale of illegal and smuggled liquor allegedly contributed to the rise in the crime rate.