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3,200 liquor vends spared closure as state highways reclassified


BENGALURU: Tipplers in Karnataka can raise a toast while the excise industry heaves a sigh of relief. At least 3,200 liquor vends operating near state highways spanning a length of 1,476.69km have been saved from closure since they have been redesignated as city roads.

A Supreme Court order dated March 31 had mandated shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants and retails outlets selling alcohol in the vicinity of state and national highways.

The Public Works Department (PWD) on June 13 issued a notification renaming the 1476.69-km long stretches passing through the limits of urban local bodies (ULBs) as city roads. State highways span a total length of 19,578.15km.

The SC order banned the sale of liquor within 500 metres of state and national highways. The range is 220 metres in towns with population below 20,000. The directive posed a closure threat to 6,015 liquor vends in Kanataka whose licences expire on June 30.

“The government’s move will help liquor trade. It will save over 50% of the liquor outlets marked for closure,” said G Honnagiri Gowda, president of Karnataka Wine Merchants Association.

The notification, however, doesn’t mention the liquor vends or the apex court order. The state government has apparently taken the step in the interest of development and to facilitate civic work along the highways. “The redesignation of state highways has nothing to do with the SC order on liquor trade. The decision was taken to ease the process of taking up civic work along the highways and around them. Now ULBs don’t have to waste time coordinating with highway authorities for work like laying of utility cables or follow procedure to provide right of way for development work,” said M Lakshminarayana, principal secretary, PWD.


Excise officials, however, were all smiles as the notification has made their job of meeting the high revenue target of Rs 18,050 crore before March 31 easier. “Liquor vends in the vicinity of state highways needn’t be closed now and their licences will be renewed,” said Rajendra Prasad, joint excise commissioner.

The government can save nearly 3000 more liquor outlets if it manages to denotify national highways as well. Lakshminarayan said a proposal has been sent to the Centre and response is awaited. The government is proposing to denotify national highways spanning over 800km which pass through municipal limits. The proposal is subject to the approval of the ministry of highways as well as National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) as the two entities maintain different stretches of national highways in Karnataka.

Source:  Times of India

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