Distilled Pragmatism: Delhi’s new liquor policy raises a toast to revenue, private vending of liquor in NCT

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March 24, 2021 5:31 AM

While some would argue that this would have a negative bearing on addiction among youth, illegal consumption is a bitter reality and, drinking-age restrictions are one of the factors propping a thriving liquor grey market that exists sans quality control.

Moreover, this brings the NCT on a par with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, cutting chances of revenue being lost to the latter.Moreover, this brings the NCT on a par with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, cutting chances of revenue being lost to the latter.

The Delhi government’s just-announced changes to the policies on liquor consumption and sale in the national capital territory (NCT) reflect pragmatic thinking. The decision to lower the minimum legal age for consumption of liquor from 25 years to 21 years will not only net more revenue, but also corrects a long-existing anomaly: a 21-year-old could work in liquor-commerce but not consume it.

While some would argue that this would have a negative bearing on addiction among youth, illegal consumption is a bitter reality and, drinking-age restrictions are one of the factors propping a thriving liquor grey market that exists sans quality control. Moreover, this brings the NCT on a par with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, cutting chances of revenue being lost to the latter.

The decision to end government-vending is a welcome move. While the NCT government runs nearly 60% of the 850 existing liquor outlets in the national capital, the fact is that the private outlets contribute the larger chunk of liquor revenues, indicating inefficiency of the government-owned shops, or worse—and more likely—leakage of revenue. The decision to enforce registration for low-priced brands in many liquor categories as well as monitoring by an international-quality laboratory signals a crackdown on spurious and low-quality liquor.

The move to put the onus of maintaining decorum around liquor shops on the shops themselves, however, could cut both ways—with the freedom to hire personnel to enforce this, bigger shops can actually do effective crowd control, but, if a small establishment doesn’t have the spending power for this, it might have to rely on grease money to either show compliance or ensure effective policing.

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