No liquor shop to open in Delhi’s 23 wards during new excise policy switch
New Delhi: At least 23 wards in Delhi will go dry from next month as the Delhi government shuts all private liquor vends in the Capital between October 1 and November 16 to ensure a smooth transition to the new excise regime. Only government-run liquor outlets will function in the Capital during this period.
Government data seen by HT shows that of the 272 wards in Delhi, nearly 80 don’t have government-run or private liquor stores while another 23 wards only have private liquor vends. With only government liquor stores functioning from October 1 to November 16, these 23 wards will go dry during the period.
The 23 municipal wards where there are only private liquor vends include RK Puram, Andrews Ganj, Lajpat Nagar, Patparganj, Rajouri Garden, Tughlaqabad, Kotla Mubarakpur, Inderpuri, Rani Bagh, Rohtash Nagar, Jilmil and Pandav Nagar.
The new excise policy, which aims to reform the city’s liquor business by improving user experience, cleaning up the liquor mafia and eradicating pilferage, was implemented on June 11. Under it, retailers are free to decide the selling prices in a competitive environment, rather than an MRP being mandated by the government.
Delhi currently has 849 liquor shops which are not equitably distributed across the city. With the new policy, the government plans to keep the total number of vends intact, reshuffling them into 32 zones to ensure a more equitable distribution across 272 municipal wards in the city, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area and the airport.
Liquor retailers said the move to shut private liquor stores from October 1 will lead to overcrowding of government liquor stores at a time when social distancing is necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19. “The closure of the private vends for the 46 days will put an excessive burden on the government shops... This period is crucial as it also includes Diwali, which falls on November 4 this year. The demand and the sale of liquor is the highest during this period,” said a retailer who did not wish to be named.
Naresh Goyal, president of Delhi liquor traders association, also expressed fears that the increased demand during festive season can lead to bootlegging. “Due to lower accessibility of liquor in Delhi during this 46-day period, people will start moving to Haryana to buy liquor. It could also lead to illegal smuggling of liquor from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and its sale in the black market at higher rates,” said Goyal.
A senior excise official, on the condition of anonymity, said that they are in the process of creating more teams to crack down on illegal sale of liquor during this time. “Adequate stocks will be maintained in the government shops that will remain open during this period. We are also looking at increasing the operational hours in case there is a lot of crowding at stores. Civil defence volunteers will also be deployed to ensure Covid-19 protocols are followed,” the official said.
A second excise official said the closure of private shops was required for easy transition to the new retail liquor licencees. “The current licences will end by September 30 and the new retailers will need 1.5 months to set up new stores and begin operations from November 17,” he said.
Last week, the Delhi government completed the process of appointing new licensees for the retail sale of liquor in each of the new 32 excise zones, paving the way for swanky and spacious liquor stores in the national capital from November 17.
The state excise department earned ₹8,917.59 crore through the bidding process of the 32 zones, which is about 26.7% higher than the reserve price set by the government. The government is aiming to earn around ₹10,000 crore in the next one year under the new excise regime.
The newly appointed retail licensees will have to build bigger and modern liquor vends from November 17. Customers will get the facility to walk in and choose their preferred liquor brands.