CHAOS AND CONFUSION AS DELHI CITY ROLLED BACK PRIVATISATION OF LIQUOR RETAIL
By Siulan Law Mathews DipWSET
Credit: Mohd Aram/Unsplash
Chaos and confusion as the Delhi municipal government decided to roll back the sweeping changes introduced last November to privatise the city’s liquor retail, due to alleged irregularities and procedural lapses in the implementation of the privatisation policy.
The terms of the privatised licences were due to expire on 31 July (Sunday) and unless the extension is approved, selling liquor will be considered illegal in Delhi.
Shops across Delhi reported panic buying on Sunday as buyers were not sure if private stores will stay open from 1 August (Monday).
The confusions arose as Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into alleged irregularities and procedural lapses in the implementation of the privatisation policy.
Saxena’s recommendation for investigation rendered it impossible for the Delhi municipal government to extend the licenses, thus causing uncertainties and confusions to licence holders and consumers.
The municipal government announced late on Sunday that the existing licenses will be extended for a month and the old system of government vending will be resumed for a period of six months from 1 September.
“Seized of the fact that the Excise Policy 2021-22 is not able to achieve the desired objectives of fetching greater revenues as envisaged and projected, and owing to the fact that the said policy has been flagged with many a issues that are under detailed examination/investigation by agencies, the Government of National Territory of Delhi has decided to revert to the old policy (prevalent till 16th November 2021) for a period of six months with effect from 1st September 2022,” said the announcement.
Licence holders have since received emails from the excise department saying their licence has expired from Sunday.
An anonymous licence holder complained to Hindustan Times : “Around 600 people work in my stores. Many of them left their previous jobs to join the stores for a bright future. What is their fault? What is the fault of the traders who invested crores of rupees into this business? We did not invest the money for a short period. The government should give us clarity.”
The Delhi municipal government officially exited liquor vending business in November last year under the new privatisation scheme. The city’s nearly 600 government-run vends were shut, making way for new swanky shops run by private licence holders.
Under the new system, the city was divided into 32 zones, each with a maximum of 27 liquor shops that are run by private liquor licence holders who won the licence through an open tender.
The new rules stipulate that the new liquor stores will have to be equipped with air-conditioning and CCTV cameras. It also bars selling liquor through grilled shops with people crowding outside on roads and pavements.
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