Delhi's new excise policy: Liquor for all!
Beating the BJP in their own game, Kejriwal has closed down all government outlets and handed over the business fully to private parties
Having received a severe tongue-lashing from the Supreme Court on the deteriorating air quality of Delhi and after his plea of stubble burning did not cut much ice, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did what he knows best. He escaped. He left the Capital to campaign in Goa, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh, leaving his colleagues behind to face the flak.
He would earlier disappear for a fortnight to Bengaluru or Nagpur for a course in Vipasana. This time he was in Jaipur in September for a 10-day Vipasana course, not meant for his colleagues though.
Before leaving he had unveiled a new liquor policy from November 17. Liquor shops would be opened to ensure no area is left ‘unserved’, reads the policy document, the excuse being that easy availability of liquor would end bootlegging. He hasn’t learnt lessons from Bihar. Delhi government has also made it easier to order liquor online and reduced the minimum age for buying liquor from 25 to 21, to wean away young voters from the BJP?
Beating the BJP in their own game, Kejriwal has closed down all government outlets and handed over the business fully to private parties.
Promising to flood the capital with swanky new liquor shops where buyers would have the choicest brands available like in malls, he has left his own party seniors red-faced.
The new excise policy is designed to fill up the state’s coffers with revenue by opening three liquor vends in each ward. They hope to raise the earnings from a meagre 5-7% earlier to 35 percent with the opening of over 850 liquor shops across the city.
When the issue was taken up in the High Court by an NGO ‘Country against drunken driving’ the government told the court that drunken driving accidents had nothing to do with the age of drinking.
Congress leader and former Revenue Minister Haroon Yusuf fumes, “Look how their priorities have changed over the years. Earlier the focus was on Mohalla clinics but today their priorities are opening up liquor shops in every Mohalla. So huge is their greed that many of these vends are now also close to schools.”
Vijender Gupta, senior BJP leader and former Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Legislative Assembly says, “They are playing with health of the people just to earn some additional revenue. The Kejriwal government is using all its marketing skills to promote drinking in the capital.”Asked if his party would take up the issue in courts he retorted, “We will take this issue to the streets.”
Shoaib Iqbal, AAP MLA from Matia Mahal, is embarrassed. The veteran Delhi politician and six-time MLA says apologetically, “People have started protesting against liquor shops in residential areas. I am trying to get them shifted out in my constituency.”
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi.)
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)