Maha cabinet revokes liquor ban in Chandrapur; BJP says move unfortunate

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Mumbai, May 27 (PTI) The Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday revoked the liquor ban in Chandrapur district of Vidarbha, six years after it was imposed by the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led government.

The move is aimed at stopping illicit breweries and incidence of crime, the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said in a statement.

Reacting to the decision, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government's decisionto lift the liquor ban in Chandrapur was 'unfortunate' and it will have consequences in the long run.

In April 2015,Chandrapur became the third district in Maharashtra to go dry with the then Fadnavis government prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol. The liquor licenses were also revoked at that time.

Apart from Chandrapur, Wardha and Gadchiroli are also dry districts.

The decision to lift the ban was taken at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The CMO said that on the basis of discussion in the legislative assembly in 2018, a committee headed by retired bureaucrat Ramanath Jha was set up and the report was submitted to the government on March 9 this year.

Jha's report said that the alcohol ban had failed as it had resulted in the supply of spurious and fake brews of some brands and illicit liquor and their black marketing.

This had resulted in financial gains to anti-social elements. The cause of concern was involvement of women and children in illegal liquor trade. The liquor ban has resulted in rise in incidents of crime in the district, the CMO said, quoting the report.

Between 2010-14, there were 16,132 cases of crime, while the figure went up to 40,381 in 2015-19, it said.

Prior to the ban, 1,729 women were involved in crimes, while the figure reached 4,042 after the ban. The use of children in sale of spurious liquor was also the rise.

Due to the liquor ban in Chandrapur district, the loss of revenue was Rs 1,606 crore in five years, while Rs 964 crore sales tax was also lost, it said.

The total loss to state exchequer was Rs 2,570 crore.

Similarly, there was demand from all walks of life to lift the alcohol ban, it added.

The statement said 2.43 lakh memoranda were filed that sought lifting of the ban and 25,876 were for continuation of the ban.

Fadnavis said, 'The state government's decision to lift ban on liquorsale in Chandrapur district is unfortunateand it will have consequences in the long run.' 'Instead of focusing on the health situation prevailing in the state, this decisionindicates what the priorities of MVA are,' he said in a statement. PTI MR CLS NP NP

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