There may be relief ahead for more than 500 liquor-serving establishments along highways in Mumbai and Thane, who have been forced to stop serving alcohol following a Supreme Court directive — the Apex court has banned the sale of liquor within 500m of highways. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has requested the state government to hand over the state highways — Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and Western Express Highway (WEH) for repair and maintenance. But here is what the move will actually do.
Both the highways begin in the middle of the city and there are a number of restaurants, bars, pubs and liquor shops around them both in Mumbai and Thane. Denotifying these highways and handing them over to the MMRDA would mean these establishments can serve liquor.
Before handing them over to the MMRDA, the state public works department (PWD), which currently maintains both the highways, will have to de-notify them.
Sources in the PWD confirmed they received a request from the MMRDA on Tuesday. The MMRDA has also agreed to bear all the expenses for repair and maintenance of both the EEH and WEH, said a senior official, requesting anonymity.
“The government is positive on the matter and the decision on handing the highways to the planning authority will be taken soon,” the officer said. Once approved, the PWD will issue a notification to de-notify both the highways, he said. The EEH starts near Chembur and goes up to Thane, where it branches out to Nashik through Kharegaon with another branch going towards Ghodbunder Road. The WEH starts at Bandra and connects Dahisar.
In case of EEH, the planning authority has requested the PWD to hand over the patch up to Kharegaon toll naka in Thane, which means most of the establishments in Thane city will also be exempted from the prohibition, the sources said.
Taking note of the large number accidents on highways caused by drink driving, the SC in December last year, had ordered a ban on all establishments within 500m of highways that served liquor.
In Maharashtra alone, 15,699 establishments, including restaurants, bars and liquor shops, were shut following the ban. The state government was under tremendous pressure from the sector to come up with a solution to minimise the impact of the ban.
Referring to its decision taken in 2001, state excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had declared that the state government is ready to de-notify state highways if the local bodies’ are ready to take over them for repair and maintenance.
Sources in the state government confirmed that de-notifying of state highways will be done in other major cities as well. This includes Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Nashik. The planning authorities concerned will also be sending similar requests to the PWD.
State highways of four cities — Latur, Jalgaon, Jalna and Yavatmal — have already been de-notified by the state government and hence are free from any prohibition.
The government will have to bear the loss of Rs7,000 crore every year because of the ban.