Teetotalitarian India: States try to circumvent liquor ban by denotifying highways to urban roads

Asmita Sarkar
liquor ban india, highway liquor ban

The prohibition on liquor ordered by the Supreme Court preventing sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways (national and state) from April 1 has hit tourism across the country. However, Rajasthan and some other states have found ways to circumvent the order partially by denotifying state highways to urban roads.

However, no state has approached the Centre on the same as yet.

"We won't process any request in haste since such a step may result in severe reprimand from the SC. The ministry itself has submitted before the court in favour of removing liquor shops along NHs, though there is a concern about the decision on banning the sale of liquor within 500 metres of both sides of all NHs and state highways," another source said, who did not wish to be named.

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Only one MP has sent to the ministry a letter to denotify the only national highway that passes through Daman and the request was denied as it would mean the Union Territory would lose the only NH it has. 

States affected by highway liquor ban

Rajasthan on Tuesday (April 4) declared that roads passing through populated areas will be denotified to urban roads to avoid loss of business. The Public Works Department (PWD) issued an order for denotification of 190 km of 21 state highways to urban roads. However, Rajasthan isn't the only state to do so. Chandigarh also declared all city roads as urban roads. 

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One of the biggest losers due to the liquor ban is Goa where around 3,200 outlets, including bars, hotels, resorts, casinos, and supermarkets which sold alcohol, can no longer sell alcohol. 

"It is going to severely affect the business which Goa, as a party destination, used to get, as people will have to hunt places where they can enjoy a drink," Duttaprasad Naik, president of Goa Liquor Traders Association, told HT.

Neighbouring Maharashtra is also planning to go the same way as Rajasthan by denotifying higways near major cities like Mumbai, Pune and others. They could end up losing Rs 7,000 crore due to the ban. 

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Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have exemption to shut sale of liquor until June 30 and September 30, respectively. In Kerala, at least 1,700 shops, including state-owned shops, were shut down to comply with the April 1 order.  

In Gurgaon, the Haryana excise department is using 'motorable distance' to measure the 500-metre distance from pubs, restaurants and shops. The owners of the businesses have asked for closure of certain roads and diverting others to increase the motorable distance. 

The apex court's ruling has not gone down well with the hospitality industry for it feels the ban could see losses of hundreds and thousands of crores of rupees. 

Centre's reaction to tourism industry's troubles

Meanwhile, Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said on Monday (April 3) that the Centre is trying to find a solution to the large-scale losses the industry would incur. He said the Centre would seek legal consultation on the matter. 

CEO of Niti Ayog Amitabh Kant has also said that thousands of people will be unemployed due to the ban on sale of liquor around highways.  

"Tourism creates jobs. Why kill it? Supreme Court's highway liquor ban verdict may hit 1 million jobs," he tweeted. 

The road transport ministry had pushed for the ban of liquor sale along highways as India has one of the highest road accident death rates. Around 400 people die everyday due to road accidents in India.  

road safety

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