The Rajasthan government has declared state highways passing through habitated areas as urban roads or district roads to circumvent the Supreme Court order banning liquor shops within 500 metres of state and national highways.
Some states will seek amendment to the order on Thursday.
Like for most states, excise duty is one of the biggest revenue sources for Rajasthan and the SC order could dent the state’s exchequer badly. In 2015-16, the state earned Rs 6,700 crore from excise duty and it fixed a target of Rs 7,300 for 2016-17. In a bid to avoid the loss, the state’s public works department (PWD) recently issued an order for denotification of 190 kilometres of 21 state highways passing through 16 districts and measuring 3,029 kilometres as urban roads or other district roads. “This would mean that most liquor vends would continue,” an official said.
Although sources in the PWD said the excise department had sought details of highways around two months ago, chief engineer Shiv Lahari Sharma termed it as a routine exercise.
“Highways are denotified as urban roads when a new road is constructed to bypass a village or a city, or when urban municipal bodies are capable of maintaining the road,” Sharma.
Rajasthan appears to have taken a cue from Chandigarh, where all city roads were declared as urban roads earlier this month for the same reason.
Although Rajasthan has not sought an amendment, states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala have. Their requests are likely to be heard on Wednesday by the SC. The Kerala State Beverages Corporation, a government-owned wing with earnings of Rs 10,500 crore in the last fiscal, has halted the move to shift liquor outlets.
Telangana government wants the deadline for closure to be extended till September end. There are about 1,400 vends and bars in state, located within 500 metres from highways.
(With inputs from Srinivasa Rao Apparasu in Hyderabad and Ramesh Babu in Thiruvananthapuram)