“Walk anywhere and you will spot several wine shops, but you may not find a single medical shop in the vicinity,” said Yuvraj Singh, a taxi driver and resident of Jaipur.
While the Congress has made the proliferation of liquor shops an election issue in Rajasthan, women’s groups and social activists are also campaigning against their unprecedented growth.
Prof. Asha Kaushik of the Centre for Women’s Studies in Jaipur University said, “All the chief minister’s poll gimmicks won’t work for two reasons: First, all decisions on women’s empowerment were taken too late in the day. Second, the number of liquor shops has gone up, and so has domestic violence.”
Renuka Pamecha of NGO Vividha said: “There has been an increase of 250 times in the number of liquor shops.”
The increase in wine shops is credited to the state’s new excise policy of 2004, with which the Raje government removed the monopoly of the liquor lobby and opened up the sector.
“The CM has provided liquor facility to even the poorest by opening shops everywhere. Basic issues like food and education have become secondary for her,” said Prabha Thakur of the Mahila Congress.
“The liquor revenue, which was Rs 1,200 crore in 2003-04, increased to Rs 2,000 crore in 2008-09” said Excise Commissioner C.P. Vyas.