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Redesignation of highways as urban roads saves 500 liquor vends in Rajasthan

State highways passing through habitated areas have been redesignated as urban or district roads to beat the SC’s 500-metre ban.

jaipur Updated: Apr 04, 2017 12:07 IST
Rakesh Goswami, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Supreme Court ban on liquor sale within 500 metres of highways,highway liquor ban,redesignation of highways
In Jaipur alone, the government managed to save 20 vends by the denotification of state highways as urban roads.((HT File Photo)

The Rajasthan government managed to save 500 of its liquor vends affected by the Supreme Court ban on liquor sale within 500 metres of highways, by redesignating state highways passing through habitated areas as urban roads or district roads.

Out of the 7,600 liquor vends in the state, 2,800 were affected by the SC order.

In Jaipur alone, the government managed to save 20 vends by the denotification of state highways as urban roads.

Like most states, excise duty is one of the biggest revenue sources for Rajasthan, and the SC order could dent the state’s exchequer badly.

In 2015-16, the state earned Rs 6,700 crore from excise duty and it fixed a target of Rs 7,300 crore for 2016-17.

In a bid to avoid the loss, the state’s public works department (PWD) recently issued an order for denotification of 190 kilometres of 21 state highways passing through 16 districts and measuring 3,029 kilometres as urban roads or other district roads.

“This would mean that most liquor vends would continue,” an official said.

Although sources in the PWD said the excise department had sought details of highways around two months ago, chief engineer Shiv Lahari Sharma termed it as a routine exercise.

“Highways are denotified as urban roads when a new road is constructed to bypass a village or a city, or when urban municipal bodies are capable of maintaining the road,” Sharma said.

Rajasthan appears to have taken a cue from Chandigarh, where all city roads were declared as urban roads earlier this month for the same reason.

Following Rajasthan, some other states, such as Uttar Pradesh, have denotified state highways as urban roads to circumvent the SC order.

In the meantime, liquor stock of more than 100 hotels and restaurants situated within 500 metres of national and state highways in Rajasthan were seized on Tuesday.

Excise commissioner OP Yadav sent a letter in this regard to all district excise officers on Monday evening after a marathon meeting through the day over the Supreme Court’s modification of the distance to 220 metres for towns with population less than 20,000.

An excise department official said there are around 750 hotels and restaurants with bar licences in Rajasthan out of which around 15% are affected by the order.

These establishments, the official added, had applied for renewal of licence in February and March. Monday’s order says licences of hotels/restaurants affected by the SC order will not be renewed and their fee will be refunded. For establishments, which have got their licence renewed, the same will be cancelled, the order stated.

First Published: Apr 04, 2017 12:01 IST