Postponing its decision to allow sale of wines in supermarkets, the Maharashtra government has maintained that it will proceed with the policy only after consultations with citizens, following opposition from several quarters and social activist Anna Hazare, who had threatened to go on a hunger strike over the issue.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the government would seek suggestions and objections from citizens on the proposed wine policy and publish its views on the website, as was done in the case of Shakti Bill. The deputy CM said principal secretary Valsa Nair Singh had gone to meet Hazare on Saturday with the government’s letter, stating that the decision was not final and widespread consultations would be held before finalising the wine policy.
Valsa Nair Singh, in the meeting with Hazare, has agreed to put the cabinet decision in the public domain for 45 days to seek public opinion, Jagdish Holkar, president, All India Wine Producers Association (AIWPA), said.
Hazare withdrew his decision to go on a fast after meeting the principal secretary and Kailash Bhosale, vice-chairman, Maharashtra State Grape Growers’ Association (MGGA), who led a 500-member farmer delegation to meet the activist at Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra on Sunday.
Hazare had sent a letter on February 3 to the state government opposing the wine policy. After getting no response, he had announced a hunger strike from Monday at Ralegaon Siddhi.
The state cabinet had taken a decision on January 27 to allow supermarkets with a minimum area of 100 square metre and 10 employees to sell wine (only), provided they were walk-in-shops, shop-within-shops where wine was not visible from the street, and there was storage facility within a space of 2.5 cubic metre under lock and key. The other restrictions like maintaining a minimum distance from religious places and schools and allowing adults over 25 years old would be followed. Also, buyers will need a drinking permit to buy wine from small retailers.
Bhosale, who had submitted a memorandum to Hazare, explained to him that farmers are very happy with the state government’s decision as it will help improve their financial condition. He pointed out that around 88 crore litre of alcohol were sold in Maharashtra annually, including 36 crore litre of country liquor, 22 crore litre of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and 30 crore litre of beer. Annually 75 lakh litre of wine is sold across the country, and farmers would benefit if wine sales are allowed in supermarkets.
Following this, the activist decided to lend his support to the farmers and called off his fast, added Bhosale.
Holkar said the views of citizens on this issue will be known only after 45 days and the association remains hopeful that the policy shall be implemented in Maharashtra.