On Wednesday, hotels along JM Road, one of the busiest roads in Pune, faced action after officials from the state excise department sealed their liquor cabinets to enforce the Supreme Court’s liquor ban order.
The government of Maharashtra will lose Rs 7,000 crore in revenues following the recent Supreme Court (SC) order banning the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of national or state highways, Chandrashekhar Bavankule, Maharashtra minister for energy and state excise, said on Thursday. Bavankule, in 2001 had said, that the state decided that local bodies like municipal corporations, which had ring-roads on the national and state highways around them, could acquire these highway stretches passing through their jurisdiction. These roads would be denotified as state or national highways and will have to be maintained by these bodies. This denotification will ensure that liquor vendors can continue to do business there, he said. According to the minister, several civic bodies across the state have already approached the Public Works Department (PWD) seeking denotification of roads as per the 2001-2021 Road Development Plan.
He pointed out that while the civic bodies in Jalgaon, Yavatmal and Katol had approached PWD seeking denotification of roads, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is yet to approach PWD. If the civic bodies approach PWD, the denotification of these roads is possible and business can continue after the civic bodies take over the maintainence of these roads, he said. On Wednesday, hotels along JM Road, one of the busiest roads within the city, faced action after officials from the state excise department sealed their liquor cabinets to enforce the Supreme Court’s liquor ban order.
Even as hoteliers protested against the action, excise officials said they had taken action following fresh alignment maps made available to them by PWD. As per a Crisil report, Pune is the worst-hit, as 71% of hotels are along the highways that cross the city. These hotels are expected to see severe dip in demand in the near term as customers would shift towards other hotels located away from highways. According to the state excise department’s figures, 15,699 licences are functional in the 500-metre distance from state and national highways. This covers 61.53% of the 25,513 retail liquor vending licences in Maharashtra, which will now have to be shut down or transferred depending on the rules.
The total number of licences operating in the 500-metre area around national highways is 4,969 (19.47% of the total) and the figure for state highways is 10,730 (42%). This includes establishments like country liquor and IMFL retail vends, permit rooms, club licenses and beer shops. State excise officials had earlier said this would cause a total revenue loss of about Rs 11,000 crore in 2017-18 in terms of state excise duties on liquor sales, licence fees and sales tax.
This includes an estimated Rs 7,398 crore towards excise duties. Excise officials have admitted they would have to work hard to ensure that the closure of authorised liquor vends did not lead to a rise in illegal sales, smuggling of liquor from other states or consumption of duplicate and spurious liquor. Bavankule said that the government is taking measures to stop illegal liquor business by appoint Gram Rakshak Dals or squads. The minister said that he had met activist Anna Hazare to discuss the scheme that is to be implemented soon.
As on March 31, 2016, Maharashtra had a total of 7,438 km of national highways, 5,180 km major state highways and 33,330 km state highways. The total road length in the state is 2,99,368 km; this also includes major district roads, district roads and village roads. The excise department, the third highest contributor to the state’s kitty after sales tax and stamp duty and registration departments, had a target of Rs 15,343.86 crore in the 2016-17 fiscal.