Coronavirus lockdown: Hic, hic, hurray! Karnataka to allow booze sale from May 4
Bengaluru: After forty days of dryness, Karnataka will conditionally reopen liquor stores from May 4.
Excise Commissioner M Lokesh has ordered that only CL-2 (retail shops) and CL-11C (state-run retail shops such as MSIL) will be open besides depots of the Karnataka State Beverages Corporation Ltd. “Malls and super markets cannot commence sales,” the order stated.
Liquor sale will be allowed only in areas that are outside COVID-19 containment zones. Shops have been allowed to sell liquor between 9 am and 7 pm.
Shops will also have to strictly limit the number of customers to five at a time, while ensuring that they maintain social distancing – not less than six feet distance, to be precise. This apart, customers and the staff have to wear masks, while shops are mandated to provide sanitizers to everyone.
The government has allowed only retail sale because the Centre has barred consumption of liquor in public places.
The state government was under immense pressure to resume liquor sales, what with Excise being a key revenue generator for the exchequer accounting for 18% of the state’s own tax collections.
The Excise department suffered massive losses over the past month owing to the lockdown. Excise Minister H Nagesh pegged the losses at Rs 60 crore per day over the last forty days.
In the 2020-21 budget, the state government has fixed a revenue target of Rs 22,700 crore from excise. The Additional Excise Duty on Indian Made Liquor was hiked by 6% to mop up more revenues. In the 2019-20 fiscal, Karnataka’s excise revenue was over Rs 19,700 crore.
Further, a complete ban on liquor sales also resulted in bootlegging. During the lockdown period (up to April 23), the Excise officials raided unauthorized outlets, seizing 44,081 litres of IML, 30,776 litres of beer, 980 litres of wine, 2,665 litres of toddy and 4,575 litres of ID (illicitly distilled) liquor.
In this period, overall 1,388 cases were registered and about 591 individuals involved in illicit trade were arrested.
Several instances of theft and break-ins at liquor stores across the state were reported during the lockdown period.