Locals in Delhi were seen lining up outside liquor shops on Tuesday, even as the government announced the imposition of 70 per cent of tax on the maximum retail price of liquor. The ‘special corona fee’ on the sale of liquor was announced by the Delhi government on Monday, the first day of resale of liquor and wine in the country ever since the lockdown had been imposed. The government has allowed 150 state-run liquor shops outside the coronavirus containment zones in the national capital. Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said all relaxations in the areas where people violate social-distancing and other health norms will be withdrawn.
The chief minister’s stern message came amid reports of people flouting social-distancing norms at liquor shops in many areas of the city after authorities allowed all activities permitted by the Central government under lockdown 3.0.
A video posted by news agency ANI showed crowd gathering outside liquor and wine shops in Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar area.
On Monday, authorities in some parts of Delhi – including Laxmi Nagar, were forced to shut down liquor shops after people defied social distancing norms, to an extent that the police had to resort to lathi-charge.
Extraordinary scenes of chaos were witnessed outside the government-run shops in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow and other cities.
While in one shop the first customer was welcomed with a garland of marigolds, in another a customer broke a coconut to herald the end of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown dry spell.
Late at night, the Delhi government imposed a 70 per cent ‘special corona fee’ on the sale of liquor.
As India entered the third phase of the lockdown and some curbs were eased, the cynosure of attention for those deprived their daily or weekly tipple was clearly the alcohol shops.
Like in Delhi, parts of West Bengal, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh where many liquor shops had to be shut just minutes after they opened as restless, edgy crowds milled around, forgetting all about social distancing norms necessary to ward off COVID-19.
In Delhi, an official said about 150 government-run liquor shops were allowed to open from 9 am to 6.30 pm in accordance with the latest lockdown relaxations given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
In the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, too, caution was abandoned as people gathered from early morning itself and bedlam reigned.
There were similar scenes in many other parts of the state, including in Kanpur, Allahabad and Ballia, despite the administration in some places instituting a “one bottle, one person” rule.
With carry bags in hands, liquor lovers lined up in long queues to purchase liquor after shops reopened in Rajasthan. Some were even seen with plastic sacks to carry the stock of liquor as much as they can.
The state excise department had to order some shops to be shut in laces where social distancing norms were not followed.