Liquor sales in UP after reopening of shops in the third phase of lockdown has grossed nearly Rs 300 crore.(ANI Photo)
Liquor sales in UP after reopening of shops in the third phase of lockdown has grossed nearly Rs 300 crore.(ANI Photo)

With old liquor rates still in play, Uttar Pradesh consumers stock up on favourite brands

Uttar Pradesh government’s order to hike prices of liquor did not come into effect on Thursday.
Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By Manish Chandra Pandey | Edited by Abhinav Sahay
UPDATED ON MAY 07, 2020 08:14 PM IST

The scaled-up liquor prices in Uttar Pradesh didn’t come into effect on Thursday allowing consumers time to stock up at old rates.

The state government on Wednesday announced an increase in prices of all categories of liquor, including country liquor, to mop up additional revenue of Rs 2,350 crore.

“We have been asked not to increase prices today (Thursday). As soon as we get the clearance, we will increase it, though re-labelling the price on old stock would be difficult,” a liquor seller said.

At many places, people were seen buying liquor by the bagful at old rates, as sellers conveniently ignored the ‘limit for sale’ clause that bars buying beyond a certain quantity.

Since May 4, when liquor shops reopened to long queues across the state after a six-week closure, revenue of over Rs 300 crore has flowed in, excise officials admit.

At least two BJP lawmakers publicly disapproved of the decision to allow liquor sale. One of them said he was worried that social distancing norms were flouted in the rush to grab a bottle.

“I fail to understand the need for allowing liquor sale as well as lifting the ban on cigarettes and paan masala,” said BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj.

The party’s Kanpur MP Satyadev Pachauri, too, had written to chief minister Yogi Adityanath, expressing concern over the sale of liquor and the flouting of social distancing norms.

BJP’s outspoken MLA from Bairia (Ballia) Surendra Singh also wondered why the government had allowed liquor sales. The opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, have already demanded that the liquor shops be closed again.

However, shopkeepers said after the first day, the rush had largely settled down.

“Our liquor licence expired on March 31. But due to the lockdown, we have been given seven days to clear our stock after which all the leftover stock would be destroyed. So, before the price hike is effected, we want to make the most of it. The people benefit too and we don’t see anything wrong in it as government is getting much needed revenue,” a liquor seller said.

The state government had set an excise revenue target of Rs 31,600 crore for 2019-20, against which it earned Rs 27,323 crore till March before the lockdown saw all bars, clubs, standalone liquor vends and model shops shut down for six weeks.

“The excise policy has to be reworked now, given the massive loss of revenue due to closure of liquor shops,” an official said.

The HT Guide to Coronavirus COVID-19

WHAT IS ‘LIMIT OF SALE?’

The ‘limit of sale’ clause restricts a person from buying beyond a certain limit.

For country liquor, both spiced and plain, the limit of sale by retail is 1.5 litres for each variety.

In foreign liquor category, six litres of liquor bottled in India or the Indian Made Foreign Liquor can be purchased. This includes whisky, brandy, rum (including white rum), gin and vodka. Similar is the sale limit for imported foreign liquor, bottled in the country of its origin.

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