AMARAVATI: The Jagan Mohan Reddy government has kicked off the process to implement the ruling party’s promise to banish liquor from the state by deciding to reduce the number of liquor bars and its working time by one hour.
The restrictions under the phased prohibition will come into effect from January 1, 2020, according to media reports. The decision was taken at a meeting convened by the chief minister to review the revenue on Thursday.
The details of the number of bars to be shut down under the policy have not been revealed. The timing has been reduced by one hour. The new timings will be from 11 am to 10 pm. A Hindustan Times report said that the number of liquor outlets is proposed to be reduced from 4,380 to 3,500.
Prohibition has been a major promise in the election manifesto of the ruling YSR government. The chief minister took special interest in the matter as liquor consumption was found to be ruining the families. The state excise department had earlier cracked its whip on unauthorised liquor outlets, known as “belt shops” locally, in rural areas on the instruction of the chief minister.
This, according to HT report, has resulted in a drastic fall in liquor sales in the state. In the month of July, there was a decrease in the sale of 12 lakh cases of liquor (each case contains 12 bottles of liquor of 750ml each), compared to last year.
Excise officials informed the chief minister at the review meeting that the revenue had registered a decline of 8.91 percent in the last one year. The revenue from liquor was Rs.3683.25 crores this year compared to Rs 4043.72 crore last year.
Under the new policy, the government also plans to do away with the auction system and entrust the sales of liquor solely to state-run Andhra Pradesh Beverages Corporation Limited (APBCL). More than 500 shops held by private traders have already been taken over by the state government and are being run by the APBCL through its outlets from September 1.
The opposition Telugu Desam Party has come out against the prohibition move. Senior TDP leader and former excise minister KS Jawahar said the new excise policy of the Jagan government would prove a disaster.
“Prohibition is by and large a failed concept, as history has proved that people will not give up liquor consumption despite restrictions,” Jawahar was quoted by HT as saying.
He said that prohibition will cause a big dent in the state revenues in the form of the licence fee, salaries to the outsourced staff running government outlets and fall in excise revenue due to reduced supply of liquor.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Telangana is gearing up to cash in on the restricted sale in Andhra Pradesh to boost its revenue. The excise department in the state is planning to increase the outlets in view of the new demand from Andhra. The state now has 2,216 licensed retail liquor outlets, 840 bars and 27 clubs. In addition to this, there are large number of unauthorised liquor outlets in rural areas.
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