New Delhi: The Delhi government may 'consider lowering' the legal age for drinking, a minister in the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet said on Wednesday.
"I feel the drinking age set at 25 years is way too much. It should be reduced," Delhi's Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra said addressing a gathering of restaurateurs at the 33rd annual meeting of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) in New Delhi.
He also invited the restaurant and events-governing associations to come up with proposals regarding the right drinking age in the national capital. "I request you to come up with a good suggestion, we'll take note of it," the minister said.
"There are a lot of old laws that need to be changed. We will do our best to mend them and make Delhi a better place, especially for tourists," he added.
Asked how soon the review could be expected and what the reduced age would be, the minister said: "We will have to decide on the age looking at various factors, so I can't tell you about the exact age as of now. It will certainly take some time to review and bring into implementation of the new proposals," Mishra said.
The minister's response came after a request was made by NRAI president Riyaaz Amlani for review of the laws regarding the minimum legal age for drinking in the national capital. "Please do something regarding the drinking age," he said.
"Even the legal marriage age for boys and girls is fixed at 21 and 18 respectively," he added.
Delhi is not the only state with 25 as the legal drinking age. Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Meghalaya too have the same limit.
The minister said that the restaurant industry played a pivotal role in adding to the cultural vibrancy of the city and tourism promotion, especially for Delhi which had the advantage of having various heritage sites.
"We need to work together to make Delhi the most sought after place in India for the tourists," he said.
The minister also assured the hoteliers that licensing and renewal processes would be simplified and inspector raj eliminated. He said the aim was to create restaurant-based tourism hubs in Delhi.
On the complaint that a large number of licences were required for restaurants, the minister said he was working on the issue and hoped to solve it soon.
"If the restaurants in a country like Turkey can operate with three licences, why can't we have that in Delhi. Bring to our note the licences you feel are not important, we will review and take a decision," Mishra assured.
According to the NRAI, the food services industry has grown significantly to Rs.247,680 crore ($48 bn), contributing about seven times more than the hotel sector to India's GDP.
The restaurant industry is expected to reach Rs.25,000 cr ($4.8 billion) mark by 2018, an NRAI statement said.