Bengaluru, April 28, 2020: Karnataka Excise Minister H Nagesh on Tuesday said that he has recommended to the Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa to open a select few retail liquor outlets after May 3. Speaking to TNM, H Nagesh said that Yediyurappa has assured him that a discussion regarding the same would resume only after May 3.
“We have been suffering losses. But it is important to note that we are only thinking about human lives more than the revenue the government can generate. We are also thinking about whether it is actually a good idea to open liquor stores as human lives are more important. I have recommended to the Chief Minister to open a select few retail outlets after May 3. But it ultimately depends on Prime Minister Modi’s direction,” H Nagesh said.
Huge losses due to lockdown
Nagesh said that the government has been mulling over whether or not these liquor outlets must open as the department is currently suffering a loss of Rs 60 crore per day.
“Since the lockdown, the loss has amounted to Rs 1,800 crore per month. But one big problem we anticipate is that people will flock to liquor shops if they are opened and will not maintain social distancing. The problem will be higher in rural areas, where people go to the outlets and drink outside,” Minister Nagesh said.
He further stated that the state government is mulling over introducing online sale of liquor and that the department officials are thinking about the logistical issues it would create. “Most of the liquor that is consumed are the cheap ones in our state. It doesn’t sound feasible as people in rural areas may not know how to order it online. However, we have not at all considered the option of home delivery of alcohol. There are a lot of problems related to this and we are trying to address this issue,” he added.
He further stated that the owners of the retail outlets suggested that the police monitor these places to ensure social distancing. “The police are busy with maintaining law and order during lockdown. They obviously can’t monitor every single outlet, which is why there is also the opinion that it is better to keep these outlets closed,” he added.
Over 1,000 cases of illegal liquor sale registered
Since the lockdown, the Excise Department has conducted 18,167 raids on retail liquor outlets across the state and has registered 1,148 suspected cases of illegal liquor sale in the state and arrested 466 people in connection with these crimes. So far, the Excise Department has seized 38,590 litres of Indian Made Liquor (IML), 26,477 litres of beer, 910 litres of wine, 2,413 litres of country liquor and 3,735 of toddy. The department has seized 33 vehicles and cancelled the licences of 44 outlets. As many as 55 retail outlets have reported thefts.
“Our department officials conducted checks on the day the lockdown was imposed and noted down the number of units in these outlets. There were differences here. Some outlets reported thefts while others could not account for the shortage and we found that they were selling liquor in black,” he added.
Open retail outlets for 2 hours at least, say wine merchants
Speaking to TNM, Honnagiri Gowda, Presidents of the Karnataka Wine Merchants’ Association said that there are 10,050 retail liquor outlets in Karnataka and all of them are now suffering huge losses due to unsold stocks of liquor. He further stated that over 15 lakh employees at these outlets have not been paid since the lockdown as there has been no revenue generated.
“Collectively, the revenue generated by liquor outlets is around Rs 2,000 crore per month. Every liquor store has tetra packed alcohol, and beer bottles and cans. Rats are eating up tetra packs. The expiry date for the beer is nearing. Each outlet is now suffering a loss of Rs 5 to 10 lakh per month,” he added.
The Association has now approached the Excise Department, seeking relief. Honnagiri Gowda said that they have requested the government to allow retail liquor stores to remain open for at least two to three hours every day. “We will put barricades and ask people to maintain social distancing and only sell if they line up. We proposed to stay open for only a few hours everyday. We all understand that there can’t be different rules for us but the people who work here are also human beings who need money to survive,” he added.
Courtesy:The News Minute