Even as the demand for liquor has increased, no new liquor shops were opened in the city in the last 18 months. Excise Minister AK Walia informed the Delhi Assembly on Wednesday that due to the opposition from the legislators, the department was going slow in opening new shops.
Walia said that in the latest counting done by the department, it has found that 109 liquor shops could be sealed in the city in the ongoing drive as they fall in the non-conforming or the residential areas. "Some of our liquor shops have now come under commercial roads after the notification and they would be spared from the sealing drive," he added.
The minister was replying to a series of questions on the Excise policy of the government. When Congress MLA Bhisham Sharma asked if there was any quota for Scheduled Castes in allotment of liquor shops, Walia said if a person fulfills all the criteria laid down for obtaining a license, he is given an allotment letter irrespective of his caste. At this Seemapuri MLA Veer Singh Dhingan asked why wasn't there a reservation for the SC in allotment of shops. "You bring any eligible SC person to us and if he/her fulfils the laid down criteria, we will give the license," said the minister.
Another Congress MLA Meera Bhardwaj and Deputy Speaker Shoaib Iqbal alleged that liquor shops were running in their constituency even though they were close to the schools. Walia replied saying that no liquor shop can be opened within 75 metres from the school gates. "I have inquired and found that the distance is 97 metres in Shoaib Iqbal's constituency," the minister said.
NCP's Ramvir Singh Bidhuri asked about the decline in revenue after sealing and closure of some liquor shops. Walia surprised the House by saying that the revenue has increased by 12 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year. "We have now introduced flexible timings for the liquor shops. The shops can remain open from 10 am to 10 pm, depending on their convenience. The only condition is that all liquor shops have to operate for a minimum of 9 hours a day," the Excise Minister said.