TWO INDIAN STATE GOVERNMENTS REOPENED LIQUOR SHOPS TO STEM BOOTLEG & GREY MARKET
By Siulan Law Mathews DipWSET
Credit: Koushik Chowdavarapu/Unsplash
Liquor shops in India’s Assam and Meghalaya States are allowed to reopen despite the national lockdown to stem the growth of grey market and bootleg alcohol.
In Assam, the state government allowed liquor shops, wholesale warehouses, bottling plants, distilleries and breweries to open from 13 April Monday for seven hours daily.
"Liquor shops shall remain open from 10 am to 5 pm on the permitted days... Shops may work with bare minimum staff and provide hand sanitisers to customers and staff while handling the bottles and cash," the order by the Assam excise department said.
In neighbouring Meghalaya, liquor shops and warehouses can remain open from Monday from 9 am to 4pm. Officials said social distancing and hand hygiene will be maintained.
Meghalaya excise commissioner Pravin Bakshi has written to all district deputy commissioners, informing them about the state government's decision to allow liquor shops to reopen.
Kerala is another state that has sought to ease alcohol availability during the lockdown. A decision to home-deliver alcohol prescribed by doctors, announced by the Kerala government, was put on hold by the Kerala High Court earlier this month.
According to the Reuters news agency, alcohol prices in India’s grey market have more than quadrupled and online searches for how to make home-made alcohol have soared since India entered into lockdown.
The news agency quoted a Mumbai consumer as saying that he had to pay 700 rupees (USD9) for a 170 rupees whisky bottle and had to visit a nearby milk shop at dawn to take delivery discreetly.
As branded liquor prices soared, many are turning to illegal liquor, said customs and police officials, who had seen a marked increase in seizures of illicit alcohol.
But even the prices of illegal liquors have skyrocketed, it was said a 180 ml bottle is now selling at over 250 rupees, up from roughly 60 rupees before the lockdown.
Some tried to make liquor themselves, online searches for "how to make alcohol at home" peaked in India during the week of 22 to 28 March ahead of the lockdown, according to data on Google Trends.
Home-brew poisoning is on the rise. In Uttar Pradesh, at least two people have died after drinking home-brewed liquor, while five others were admitted to hospital in critical condition.
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