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Drinking in open rampant at Gurugram vends

Sociologists blame pop culture, such as music videos, which promote drinking in open spaces, portraying it as a sign of masculinity among the men

cities Updated: Aug 16, 2018 10:38 IST
drinking in gurugram
People having alcohol outside a liquor shop, near Kanhai Village sector 44, in Gurugram.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Drinking in public – more specifically, outdoor spaces such as roads, parks, or in a car (car-o-bar), is an after-dark pastime in the city, when the space outside that ubiquitous nearby vend is transformed into an unwinding zone, luring people for a quick drink post work, who risk arrest and on occasion, a brawl. The drinking is routine, hardly subtle and illegal. It leads to boorish behaviour and drunk driving.

Of the 12 liquor vends Hindustan Times visited across the city over the weekend, ranging from MG Road to urban villages such as Kanhai, between 9pm and midnight, people were drinking in open at 11 locations, except at Galleria Market in DLF-4.

The 11 other spots were Central Arcade DLF phase 2, Vyapar Kendra Sushant Lok, Bristol Chowk, Kanhai Village near Sector 44, Jharsa village, Sector 47, Sector 49, South City gate and near Aralias on Golf Course Road.

Complaints of open drinking were made by residents. While there were a few police control vans stationed near two of the liquor stores, people hardly made an effort to conceal their glasses and liquor bottles. The police did not check them either.

Sumit Kuhar, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), crime, said, “If open drinking is taking place, then it is due to the negligence of the respective SHOs (station house officers). In Gurugram, there is a bimari (disease) to not adhere to the law. There are bars and ‘ahaatas’, but people still drink in the open to display some kind of machoism. Even educated people drink openly in their cars.”

Pankaj, 29, and Daljit Singh, 27, stand at a snack stall outside a liquor vend near Kanhai village, Sector 44, as they do most evenings, with a drink in their hands.

“One can stand and drink at the stall here. Two days ago, I was drinking when the police came to apprehend a man who had a bottle in his hand. But, the snack stall owner talked to the police and the man was let off with a warning,” said Pankaj, who works with a private company.

On an average, at least eight people in the city spend a night in jail every day for the offence. According to data from the office of the commissioner of police, as many as 3,365 people were arrested in 2017 for violations of the Punjab Excise Act and this year till August 10, the figure has reached 2,275 and is expected to breach the last year’s mark.

A majority of arrests are reported from DLF Phase-2, MG Road, Golf Course Road, Golf Course Extension Road, Sushant Lok and sectors 30, 31, 38, 38, 45 and 47, said Kuhar.

Sneh Lata Yadav, deputy excise and taxation commissioner (east), said that serving liquor in open is a serious offence and a vend employee cannot allow people to drink in front of their stores. “We have penalised people guilty of the offence and issued them a strict warning, but the police can better ensure the safety and security of the residents,” said Yadav.

Yet, despite arrests and police patrolling, drinking in open — outside liquor stores, residential areas and parks — continues unabated.

Dr Rajesh Gill, professor of Sociology at Panjab University, said drinking in public places is perceived as a sign of masculinity . “It is considered manly to be seen drinking openly in public places. Pop culture is also to be blamed, with local songs in Punjab and Haryana perpetuating this boisterous image,” said Gill.

The police say that brawls take place due to open drinking. Last week, four youths, after getting drunk in the open, had allegedly assaulted a grocer in Sector 10 and set the tyres of his car on fire, after he refused to sell them beer.

In another instance last week, six men, allegedly inebriated, got into a brawl on MG Road and created a ruckus. In July, a 19-year-old suspected robber was arrested after he allegedly shot at his accomplice following a dispute over the division of the loot after they got drunk on a vacant plot in Sector 11.

Shiv Visvanathan, professor of sociology, Jindal Global Law School, Panipat, said the culture in India is to get drunk to the point of becoming a nuisance. “People are drinking in open simply because they have no proper options. These cities have been built without any real sense of public space or to cater for expression of celebrations in a public space.”

Varun Joshi, a senior consultant working in the city, said that Gurugram has a ‘culture’ of drinking in open spaces, with liquor shop owners lending a de facto immunity by not objecting to people drinking in the open.

“There is an overwhelming perception that it is alright to have a few drinks in the open. Police raids are selective and law enforcement is not a proper deterrent. People are let off with a warning or released on bail the day after,” said Joshi.

Others said the high prices charged by pubs, bars and local ‘ahaatas’ is a major hindrance, which forces residents to explore cheaper alternatives.

“It is a class thing. I cannot afford to drink at a pub in Cyber Hub or in a car. ‘Ahaatas’ have hiked food prices exponentially. Here, one can enjoy an evening in peace without burning a hole in their pocket,” said Atul, at Sector 47.

The character of open space restaurants or ‘ahaatas’ adjoining liquor shops, where people could sit and drink liquor at retail prices, has evolved over the years, with ‘ahaatas’ offering a more expansive food menu and music, in a bid to compete with pubs and bars. They attract a selective audience, leaving others to opt for other options, said locals.

Tej Bahadur Singh, a cook from Nepal, said that on most days, he drinks in a quiet corner in DLF Phase 2, chasing beer with a fried snack.

When asked why he preferred drinking in open, he said, “It is a function of comfort. This is a posh locality and the tikkas from a snacking place adjacent to the vend are sumptuous,” said Tej Bahadur, seated on a step, a few yards from the liquor store.

The alternative food economy, of quick snacks — momos, eggs, fried potato fritters — that forms outside a vend, acts as an enabler.

At a liquor vend in Sushant Lok-I, an MBA graduate, requesting anonymity, said that he preferred stopping at a vend after work for a quick drink with a colleague in his car, as it offered privacy and took less time.

“It is a more intimate experience. The pubs and malls in Cyber Hub are loud and expensive. One has to shell out Rs2,000 for a couple of hours. This involves risk, but it’s cheaper,” he said.

KK Rao, the commissioner of police said reducing incidents of public drinking is among his top priorities, to make the city safer. “After I took over, we have launched an extensive campaign with frequent raids, especially on MG Road. No liquor vend will be permitted to be open post-midnight, which is the stipulated time. We have been arresting people found drinking in open, but if the trend continues, we will start booking the liquor vend owners as they are equally responsible for the activity taking place on their premises”.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 10:19 IST