After drawing flak, Haryana decides to shut down liquor vends

Chandigarh, Mar 26 (PTI) The Haryana government on Thursday decided to shut down liquor vends in the state from midnight due to 'operational issues' after drawing heavy criticism for keeping the outlets open despite a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

'We have decided to close liquor vends in the state,' Principal Secretary, Excise and Taxation Department Anurag Rastogi told PTI over the phone.

He said the decision to close liquor vends was taken because of operational issues.

Officials said it was becoming difficult to manage operations due to the lockdown.

'For example, one district says these could be opened between 12 pm to 3 pm, at other place timings were 12 to 5, and movement of supply was becoming difficult, that is supply from wholesale to retail,' said Rastogi.

The decision was taken during a meeting Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala had with district food controller officers and district taxation officers through a video link. Chautala directed the food controller officers to ensure availability of essential commodities, especially flour, pulses and edible oil in the district.

At a media address Chief Minister M L Khattar addressed digitally a few days ago, he was asked about reports that liquor vends were open in Panchkula and a few other places despite the lockdown and the heavy rush of people to these outlets was compromising social distancing.

However, Khattar said there was no immediate move to close down liquor vends.

On Thursday, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala slammed the BJP-JJP government for not shutting down the outlets. 'When the entire nation is fighting a war to check spread of coronavirus, liquor vends have been kept open in Haryana, which is unfortunate,' Surjewala said.

He asked whether medicines or liquor was the priority of the government during the lockdown.

The entire Haryana went into lockdown on Tuesday, before whole of the country. The Haryana government had initially ordered a lockdown in Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat, Panipat, Jhajjar, Rohtak and Panchkula districts till March 31 but later decided to extend the measure to the entire state.

However, all essential and emergency services are exempted, officials said. PTI SUN VSD ABH ABH