Liquor shops to be shut down in phases: MP CM

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh seems to be slowly but surely inching towards prohibition, and the confirmation comes from none other than chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Speaking at a Narmada Yatra rally in Narsinghpur late Sunday night, the CM said the government is moving towards a liquor-free state “in a phased manner”.

“Alcohol prohibition will be implemented in the entire state by closing all liquor shops in a phased manner,” Chouhan said at the river conservation rally, some 230km east of Bhopal. It was at one such Narmada event in January that the CM had announced a ban on liquor shops within 5km of the Narmada banks, followed by directives to liquor shops to keep records of regular customers. Since then, there has been a string of protests by women against liquor shops in several parts of the state.

Taking cue from the CM’s statement, and the liquor protests across MP, state finance and commercial tax minister Jayant Malaiya said that if “people are ready to quit alcohol, the government is ready to impose total prohibition”. “We want the public to take initiative against alcohol abuse. If people are ready to quit alcohol, the government will lock up all liquor shops in the state with immediate effect. Also, to discourage drinking the government will spend Rs 400 crore this fiscal on creating awareness against liquor,” Malaiya told TOI, adding that the government will encourage people to spend money on “good education and milk instead”.

Chouhan’s statement has reinforced speculation that the government is inching towards prohibition, but through awareness and public support. “The government’s initiatives began with the shifting of 65 liquor shops across the banks of Narmada, followed a ban on liquor shops near residential areas, schools, colleges and religious places,” said Malaiya.

The anti-liquor build-up has run parallel with the cleansing theme of the Narmada Yatra, which ends on May 11.
Malaiya said he supports the CM’s stand that alcohol consumption will be “discouraged in a phased manner and banned”. He believes there was no major revenue loss during the anti-alcohol drive as the finance department has already compensated from other sources. “We are not after revenue from excise as we can generate Rs 6,300-6,400 crore a year from other sources. What’s important is public health and law and order. Several states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana had imposed prohibition without awareness but they had to open the liquor shops again. We want to implement it through public awareness and support,” he said.

On the awareness drive, Malaiya said the government will educate people to spend their earnings on “family, milk and education of their children” instead on liquor. “Only if a family is well-to-do, lives in a puicca house, can give children food and education, and gift ornaments, television or refrigerator to wife, only then can someone claim the right to consume alcohol. If they can save after these necessary expenses can they spend on their hobby. It’s not justifiable that they sacrifice the family for their hobby,” advised Malaiya.

Sources in the Mantralaya said the government is concerned about law and order in parts of the state since protests against liquor shops have been reported in various districts over the past month. Residents, particularly women, have come out on the streets against opening of new liquor shops in residential areas.

Excise income (2015-16) : Rs 7926.29 crore
Income from auction of country and foreign liquor
2015-16: Rs 6395.35 crore
2016-17: Rs 5760.86 crore
Income from IMFL license fee: Rs 31.72 crore
IMFL manufacturers in MP: 21
IMFL production in MP: 784.72 lakh proof litres

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Beer production in MP: 1084.05 lakh bukl litres
Consumption of liquor in MP (2015-16)