No decision on reopening of liquor shops, says Rajesh Tope

Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 07:23 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

After his off-the-cuff remark on Monday was widely shared, health minister hurries to clarify that no final decision has been taken about this

Rajesh Tope
Rajesh Tope

On Tuesday after his statements the previous night were misconstrued, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that no final decision was taken about reopening liquor shops during the lockdown. He clarified that liquor shops will be allowed to operate only if social distancing measures were followed. "Strict guidelines should be in place before the final decision is taken," he said.

Tope's cryptic response to an online question on Monday night, "If social distancing is properly maintained, there should not be any ban on liquor shops," was promptly interpreted as the state government's preparedness to operate liquor shops which were shut because they don't fall under essential commodities as defined by the Disaster Management Act.

Tope tweets clarification
Rumours started doing the rounds after a section of the media reported Tope's 'willingness' on Monday night. The social media frenzy surprised the Excise Department, as its officers knew nothing about any move, but started getting calls from the people in the business.

The minister tweeted his clarification late at night and came up with one more on Tuesday morning.

In Maharashtra, the permit rooms (bars), restaurants and retail liquor shops were shut one month ago, a couple of days before the national lockdown came into force.
Since then several incidents of liquor theft have been reported in the state. In the black market the liquor is said to be sold at a much higher rate than retail cost. Spurious and country-made stuff is also in circulation.

State coffers suffer
The state coffers have taken a big hit in excise duty and value added tax collection. Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, and Nagpur which are now COVID-19 red zones where restrictions are stringently enforced, together contribute over 60% share of the liquor consumption in the state.

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