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Govt to open 900 liquor shops in Karnataka, 30 in Bengaluru


BENGALURU: The Karnataka government has revived its plan to open 900 liquor shops across the state, including 30 in Bangalore city, after a huge dip in excise revenue collection following the SC ban on liquor vends near highways.

These outlets will be run by the Mysore Sales International Limited (MSIL). “We are planning to open liquor shops in phases to make up for the possible shortfall in revenue, owing to the new highway rule,” said additional chief secretary (finance) I S N Prasad. MSIL currently has 463 outlets in the state.

Although the state finance department had cleared the proposal last year, the move was shelved after opposition parties accused the government of pushing people into debt by opening liquor shops when the state was reeling under drought.

The MSIL had, in fact, called for tenders to establish 350 outlets in the first phase, on the condition that the shops would have detachable furniture so that outlets could be shifted to other locations depending on demand.

Though the spectre of another drought looms large in the state, the government feels it cannot hold off on the proposal afford any longer since 700-odd liquor vends have been shut since a month. “We are worried that it will take a heavy toll on the state revenue collection and eventually on welfare and development schemes,” said a senior official from the state excise department. Though the state is pushing for de notification of the highways, the official said, recovery and stabilisation may take longer.

The government plans to first identify suitable locations, in keeping with the SC order. The outlets will sell Indian-made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) at maximum retail price (MRP), sourced through Karnataka State Beverages Corporation.

“The demand for liquor shops has gone up substantially ever since bars, pubs and liquor outlets were closed in the aftermath of the Supreme court’s blanket ban on the liquor vends close to highways The ban on sale of arrack has already created a huge scarcity in rural areas. The new outlets will look to address both issues,” the excise official said.

The government had originally planned to open more MSIL retail liquor outlets in the state following complaints of sale of liquor above MRP and failure of licence holders to open shops in rural areas. With the increase in demand for IMFL due to the arrack ban, the excise department had wanted liquor shops every five kilometres to prevent the sale of spurious and illegal liquor. However, many rural areas do not have as many shops and this has led to illegal trade, the official said.

Source: Times of India

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