How Indians Rely on Jugaad to Keep Booze Flowing Despite SC Ban

From denotifying state highways to selling booze behind closed shutters, the liquor continues to flow. 

From 1 April 2017, the Supreme Court’s mandate on prohibiting the sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways across the country has been in effect.

In a recent clarification offered by the Court, the ban also roped in bars, pubs and restaurants as there was “no question of exempting these establishments, as this would be a dilution of its objective of preventing drunk driving, which is one of the major killers plaguing Indian roads”.

The move has left the hospitality sector high and dry with massive losses and the state losing out on revenue as well. Various state and city authorities are looking for loopholes in the ruling that may be surpassed for the booze to flow, along with revenue generation. Here are a few of them:

1. Denotification of State and National Highways

Denotifying state and national highways to urban or district roads may prove profitable for states trying to escape the 500-metre cap. The move though may add burden on the state exchequer as the expenditure incurred on the maintenance and repairing of roads will be borne by the state itself.

According to an Indian Express report, Punjab denotified 30 kms of SHs into urban roads.

Similarly, Rajasthan Public Works Department dissected sections from 21 SHs in 16 districts to create a stretch of 185 kms of urban roads.

Maharashtra’s PWD approved denotification of SHs near two districts - Latur and Jalgaon. It has received similar proposals from other districts including Nagpur, Pune, etc.

Chandigarh, too, has formed a committee to look into the reclassification matter.

2. DLF Cyber Hub’s Switcheroo

DLF Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, since its inception, had turned into the perfect food/drinks mecca for those looking to unwind after office hours with around 34 bars and pubs, but its fate was left hanging after the SC order.

An Economic Times report said that DLF Cyber Hub managed to make the perfect switcheroo at the right time by changing the entrance, which was earlier close to the NH-8 connecting Delhi and Gurgaon to Belvedere Towers side (about 2 km from the highway).

“This is a part of the larger DLF plan and this change was planned way back and done adequately at the right time last week," a DLF official told ET.

3. Shutter Up-Shutter Down

The second classic move, sacredly followed on dry days, is the surreptitious sale of alcohol by vendors close to dhabas and eateries near the Delhi-Haryana border. A knock on the shutter might get one access to booze. A ground report by India Today stated how the ban is being flouted.

India Today Report The first stop was Kundli on the Delhi-Haryana border, where a liquor vend with half its shutter down was found operating. Customers were easily able to peek into the store... At Murthal, a liquor vend was seen operating even though it was barely 50 metres away from the highway.

4. Issuance of ‘On Shop’ Licence in West Bengal

A Times of India report said that the West Bengal government found a hack to dodge the diktat by issuing ‘on shop’ licences to liquor off shops within the 500-metre limit.

An ‘off shop’ is a retail store that sells liquor and an ‘on shop’ allows one to consume alcohol on its premises. The state issued the order after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had said that the ban was only applicable to liquor shops and not bars or restaurants.

There are some 1,800 ‘off shops’ within 500 metres of the highways that generate around Rs 1,000 crore revenue for the state.

The order though may face hurdles after the SC recently declared that the ban also extends to bars, pubs etc.