If there is anything related to Lockdown 3.0 that people are currently discussing the most, it is alcohol aka ‘sharab’. India is among the world’s largest consumers of alcoholic beverages. Majority of the population has been extremely restless without alcohol for the past month as a drink or two was an important recreational part of their daily lives. Well, here is a piece of good news for them.
As you know, the Indian government has extended the coronavirus lockdown, earlier decided to end this Sunday on May 3, for another two weeks in the country till May 17. For the third phase of the lockdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued new guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 that include a range of relaxations for some of the low-risk districts that fall in the Green and Orange Zones. The ministry has categorized the country in three – Green, Orange and Red – zones, and different rules and restrictions will be imposed in respective zones.
While extending the nationwide lockdown for another 14 days, the MHA allowed liquor, paan, and tobacco shops to open again in all zones, including hotspots in red zones. But remember, the order is applicable to stand-alone liquor stores. Such shops will remain shut in containment zones due to a high number of coronavirus cases. All non-essential activities will remain strictly prohibited between 7 pm and 7 am during the lockdown 3.0. Only the necessary activities are allowed in these areas.
The liquor and tobacco shops inside malls or shopping complexes will not be open; shopkeepers and customers are ordered to ensure certain restrictions and strict social distancing norms. These shops can only provide their services if the shopkeeper ensures that not more than 5 people are present in the shop at a time with all of them obeying social distancing rules. Spitting in public places is strictly prohibited.
“Shops selling liquor, paan, gutka, tobacco, etc will ensure minimum six feet distance (2 gaz ki doori) from each other, and also ensure that not more than 5 persons are present at one time at the shop,” the fresh guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated.
Based on their risk profile, the government has classified all 733 districts of the country into three different zones – green, orange and red. Red zone stands for hotspot areas, orange for having a limited number of coronavirus cases and green implies places where there are no more reported coronavirus cases have emerged.
Under the new guidelines, some services including air travel (both domestic and international), rail service, metro, inter-state bus services, all educational institutions (schools, colleges, training/ coaching classes), shopping malls, hotels and restaurants, cinema halls, other entertainment centers, sports complexes, gymnasiums, all religious places or places of worship, social, political, cultural and other kinds of social gatherings will continue to be prohibited throughout the country, including in green zones.
The government had banned the sale of liquor, paan masala, gutkha, and other tobacco products in the country since March 24, when the first stage of nationwide lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since then, several state governments had constantly urged the central government to lift the ban on sale of liquor quoting depletion of state revenues. The new announcement by MHA comes as a relief to the boozers as well as state governments as excise duty on liquor sales is a major revenue driver. The alcoholic beverage companies provide millions of jobs and contribute roughly Rs. 2.5 lakh crore to state governments as annual taxes.