Liquor ban: Thousands lose jobs as highway vends close in Punjab, Haryana

The Supreme Court has refused to modify the ban it placed on hotels and restaurants from serving liquor along the highways.

Thousands of liquor vends, taverns and bar employees who worked in various units located along the National Highway-1, have lost their jobs following the Supreme Court orders banning the sale of liquor along state and national highways.

Case Study -1

44-year-old Monty Singh had set up his tavern by spending Rs 2 lakh which he got after disposing off his car eight months back at Golu Majra on NH1. Golu's four employees served snacks and liquor to the customers and everything was fine until Saturday when he was asked by the Excise and Taxation Department officials to shut his tavern.

The tavern which used to attract dozens of customers everyday bears a deserted look now. The benches, the chairs and the khaat all have been occupied by the house flies now.

"Whatever I had, I had invested here. I am jobless. I have asked four helpers, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand to find other jobs as I will not be able to pay them. My son and daughter are in college, I am worried about their future.The government should come forward to help us. We have been rendered jobless by the court orders," Monty said.

Case Study-2

The Supreme Court orders have in fact left many of the liquor vendors and bar employees high and dry as most of them are in their fifties. They have been rendered jobless at a stage when learning a different profession to earn a calling is really difficult.

Prem Singh, 40, hails from a village located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. He has been working as a liquor salesman for the last two decades and finds himself as a misfit in any other profession. He has finally decided to return to his village where he will cultivate his fields to feed his two children and wife.

"We have agriculture land in Himachal which is not fertile. There are no jobs here. I have no option but to go back to my village," Prem Singh said.

Case Study-3

Neeraj, 35, is also struggling to find another job. He hails from Shahabad town of Haryana and his family is landless.

"I have spent 15 years selling liquor. Where should I go? The liquor contractors are not ready to invest in vends as shifting vends will result in poor sales. The Haryana government has already increased the vend prices. We have lost hope after the court orders," Neeraj said.

Case Study-4

Des Raj, 40 belongs to Pehowa town of Haryana. He used to get a monthly salary of Rs 10,000 by working as a salesman, the profession which he had chosen 18 years back. He worked in a Shahabad Markanda liquor vend which has been closed as it was only a few metres from the highway.

"Please don't click the photos of cartons. We are not selling any liquor here now. This vend has been closed. I am jobless once again. The government should come forward to rehabilitate us," says Des Raj whose six children (four daughters and two sons) now face a bleak future as their father has lost the job.

More Details

The liquor vend owners employed helpers, store keepers, drivers and salesmen to manage the business which is no more. The worst- hit are the hoteliers, restaurant and bar owners whose sales have come down by fifty percent after the ban.

The Supreme Court orders have also left the Punjab and Haryana governments worried as a major part of their revenue comes from the taxes collected on liquor sale.

Punjab has already closed 1868 vends out of which 1083 are located in Ludhiana after the Supreme Court orders.

63 hotel and 25 pubs have been shut down after the Supreme Court orders in Chandigarh. They are likely to lose a business of Rs 150 crore which will result in a revenue loss of Rs 8.43 crore to the Chandigarh administration. The hotel and restaurant association, alleging loss in revenues, have threatened to launch a protest against the court orders.

When contacted, Haryana's Health and Sports Minister welcomed the apex court's decision and said that life was more precious than the revenue for his government.

"We are aware that the Supreme Court orders will result in a huge revenue loss but life security is more important than revenue. We welcome the decision as it is in the interest of the people. The number of drunken driving and accident cases will be reduced after this decision," Anil Vij said.