For thousands of bar owners and liquor vendors in Goa, a directive from the union road transport and highways ministry to shut down operations along national highways has rung alarm bells.
In a bid to curb road accidents and resulting fatalities, ministry secretary Vijay Chibber has asked the Goa government to close down bars set up along the three national highways which pass through the state.
“Since prevention is always better than cure, it is requested to issue instructions to remove liquor shops along National Highways and ensure that no licence is issued to liquor vendors along national highways,” Chhibber said.
Goa, known for cheap and easily available liquor, has nearly 7,000 bars and liquor vends, a fourth of which are along the national highways that traverse through the state.
While cosy taverns and small bars dot the countryside and service local residents, highway bars and liquor outlets cater to tourists and truckers.
Interestingly, alcohol in Goa is far cheaper than in the rest of the country. And it’s a rare day which passes without a stray inebriated tourist or local crashing his four-wheeler or motorcycle into a pedestrian on the highways.
Goa reported 4,500 road accidents in 2012, 300 of them fatal. But there are no separate figures for how many accidents occurred on highways and peripheral roads or were caused by drunken driving.
Chhibber claimed that strict implementation of Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act could help arrest the escalating death rate on India’s highways.
In 2011 alone, 142,000 people were killed in road accidents across India, while nearly half a million received injuries, Chibber said, adding that 24,655 accidents were due to drunken driving.
Anant Naik, whose bar is located along National Highway-17, said,“I have been running this bar for 25 years. I have a clientele that has been established over the years. I am 55 years old, it will be difficult for me to relocate,” Naik said.
An official at the state excise department said that while the ministry directive is in the right “spirit”, it may be realistically difficult to enforce. “Liquor shops and bars in Goa have been around for decades. They are an established lobby and getting them to relocate may not be easy. Unless we get explicit instructions, we may not crack down hard,” an official said.
4,500 The number of acccidents Goa reported last year