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Explained: Delhi's liquor policy controversy

The Delhi Government separated itself from the business of selling alcohol last year.
Last Updated 24 July 2022, 20:44 IST

The political debate on Delhi’s newly adopted Excise Policy 2021-2022 has escalated with Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena directing the chief secretary to submit a report on the role of officers and civil servants in the implementation of the policy. This move comes after the allegations of discrepancies and misconduct in the policy by the opposition.
LG has recommended a CBI probe in the matter.

Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has lashed out at the opposition. He said Manish Sisodia who is heading the Excise department of Delhi government is a “hardcore honest” man. He further said that the accusations against Sisodia are fabricated.

What is the controversial excise policy?

The Delhi Government separated itself from the business of selling alcohol on November 17, 2021 which included shutting down of around 600 government run liquor shops. The idea was to revolutionise liquor shopping by making it more appealing and in the process boost the revenue.

In the new policy, the Kejriwal government gave retail licenses to 850 liquor shops among which 266 are private. The 849 retail liquor shops divided into 32 zones in the city will include a minimum five super premium retail spaces with a carpet area of 2,500 square feet.

There were other aspects to the policies, like clubs and restaurants except those licenses who are only given permission to operate around the clock will be allowed to remain till 3 am . A L-38 license was introduced for banquet halls, party places, farmhouses, motels, wedding/party/event venues and with permission to serve Indian and foreign liquor at all parties hosted on their premises, they will have to pay a one-time annual fee, etc.

Why is it controversial and what is the Opposition’s opinion?

The opposition mainly BJP and the Congress has criticised the move for promoting alcoholism and making the youth directionless.

The Opposition has attacked the Aam Aadmi Party for promising schools and development and opening liquor stores.

It also said that the new policy will make Delhi unsafe for women. In January, the BJP staged a chakka jam opposing the policy.

The dwindling number of liquor shops

In 2021, 849 liquor store licences were issued by Delhi government, but several liquor shops closed due to financial losses. From 849 shops, it came down to 649 stores in May. This dropped to 464 in June.Many license holders are not opting for the extension and shut shops as they are finding it difficult nake profits after paying high license fees, the cut throat competition with new brands in the market is also reason.

AAP’s response

AAP has stood by the policy as a move to counter the liquour mafia in the city. It has accused BJP of fabricating a CBI probe and "witch hunting," especially after its victory in Punjab.

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(Published 24 July 2022, 08:37 IST)

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