The Supreme Court’s ban on Liquor shops on the national and state highways came into effect on 1 April. Brewers and Liquor firms all over the country believe that this will be a challenging beginning to the new financial year. The apex court had banned the sale of liquor within 500m of highways across the country in December 2016 as a response to a public interest litigation seeking to curtail road accidents on highways due to drunken driving.
In order to steer clear of the ban some states have decided to de-notify state highways which run through the city.
As a crafty ploy many shops are moving closer to residential areas to beat the distance limit set by the top court.
However, they now face with women who are protesting against this shift. Women’s groups have taken to the streets to stop the highway liquor stores from relocating to residential neighbourhoods. Apart from using staged protests, dharnas, and meetings and sometimes even using force, the residents are discouraging the shopkeepers by putting up divinities outside relocated shops.
The Hindustan Times quoted Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, saying, “The shops will shift to towns and villages (from near highways). The states should think of prohibition.” The minister in his 2015 poll campaign had promised to ban sale and consumption of alcohol in the state and he fulfilled it.
Several states in India have a prohibition on sale, purchase and consumption of alcohol. But it has not been adopted by the majority of them as excise duty levied on alcoholic beverages is one of the biggest revenue-grosser. As a result, several states are unhappy with the Supreme Court’s ban and have asked the Centre to file a review petition. Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma said the government is looking at a middle path.
Women’s groups around the country have welcomed this court order. In India, drinking alcohol is considered a social evil and women have been on the receiving end of the harrowing and hazardous side-effects of alcohol addiction.
Several states like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have witnessed Women-led protests against the shops moving into residential neighbourhoods. A policeman was assaulted near Chennai, during a protest over the shifting of a liquor shop from near the main road too close to their homes. In Madhya Pradesh people ransacked a shop in Sagar when the contractor refused to shift the outlet to another location. Similar reports of protests have been received from Raisen village, Bundelkhand region, Satna and Indore.
In Rajasthan, more than 20 women, some carrying infants, have been guarding the small town of Kanwat in Sikar to prevent the opening of a booze store. Similar protests by women have been witnessed in Barmer, Kota and Bharatpur.
People in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, held protests against liquor shops being moved to their localities. Protesters blocked traffic on national highway 24 over plans to shift a shop to their village. In Meerut, women put deities outside a liquor vend as a mark of protest. In Champawat, in Uttarakhand, women marched with axes, sticks and stones, and refused to move from a proposed site of a shop. In Rudraprayag, protesters vandalised a shop and emptied liquor bottles in the Mandakini River. Women from Thapli village in Panchkula poured liquor from a newly-opened shop and set the liquid on fire. In Kedarpur near Pinjore, a shop was razed.
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