Amid the deadly Coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 27 lives till date in Punjab, tipplers have certainly some good news to cheer. Now they can have ‘pegs’ of their preferred brands and choice at door-steps with the Punjab government on Wednesday deciding to start home delivery of liquor from Thursday onwards during the lockdown period.
Though the Punjab government had planned to start home delivery of the liquor in January this year, the decision finally took shape a couple of days ago amid the COVID crises. The state Excise and Taxation Department on Wednesday issued orders amidst a stand-off with the liquor contractors over starting home delivery.
The department has asked the liquor contractors, who were earlier reluctant, to facilitate home delivery of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), not more than two litres per order, but Punjab Made Liquor (PML or ‘desi’) would not be delivered home. While the liquor shops will remain open from 9 am to 1 pm the timings for home delivery is from 1 pm to 6 pm.
The orders of Excise and Taxation Department also say that the time for home delivery of liquor will also be decided by the respective deputy commissioners. Each licensing unit can designate only two persons for delivery of liquor, who will be issued a card by the excise officials concerned. Even the vehicle to be used will have to be notified and to allay fears of contractors that the facility could encourage liquor smuggling, the government has made it mandatory for delivery boys to carry cash memo of the liquor to be delivered.
All liquor contractors who have deposited 50 per cent of licence fee have been allowed to start operations, while others have been told to deposit the fee before they can start operations. The department has also issued directions to maintain social distancing among employees and customers queuing up outside the vends.
In an effort to generate some revenue during lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh was the first Chief Minister to have written to Union Government seeking permission for opening of liquor vends. He had also mentioned that Punjab was losing revenue to the tune of Rs 520 crore (excise duty) every month since the lockdown as imposed.
Moreover, the home delivery of alcohol was allowed so that the social distancing could be maintained and to avoid seekers from standing in queues for long hours in front of wine and whisky shops.
The liquor contractors, however, are reluctant to open their vends till the government resolves the issues of reduction in licence fee. Apprehending huge profit margin, they wanted the government to extend their contract till May next year and charge licence fee on actual sale of liquor.
Going one step ahead, the Chhattigarh government has already started home delivery of the liquor and even set up a web portal for online sale of booze in green zones of the state. According to an official spokesperson, the Chhattigarh government has given permission for online sale of liquor to discourage crowding at the wine shops.