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Kerala govt likely to denotify 4,342km state highways


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government plans to denotify 4,342km state highways and rechristen them as major district roads to facilitate the reopening of bar hotels and beer/wine parlours along them. The move is aimed at recovering the revenue loss owing to their closure following the Supreme Court order.

The cabinet is expected to consider a proposal in this regard on August 23. The CPM and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had approved the idea and asked the matter to be placed before the cabinet. The excise department had reportedly favoured denotifying the state highways while the public works department took a stand that the matter should be a collective decision of the cabinet. The file was subsequently forwarded to the chief minister.

The excise department data show that 479 bars and liquor vends are remaining closed since April 1 this year after the Supreme Court banned liquor vends along the national and state highways. The department estimates that the exchequer will lose one-tenth of its revenue from liquor sales owing to the closure.

As per the estimates, the state government is losing approximately Rs 3 crore/day owing to the closure, which will cross Rs 1,000 crore in a year as liquor outlets function for approximately 345 days a year. The state earned Rs 10,500 crore from liquor sales-including sales tax, excise duty, licence fee and other proceeds- last year.

Many state governments including Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka have denotified their state highways after the SC allowed state governments to decide on the status of roads within cities. Punjab had even amended the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, and inserted a clause 14 (a) that said that “liquor vends” shall mean retail shops that are licensed to sell liquor and shall not include any hotels, clubs, restaurants or any such notified places, that have exempted the bar hotels along the highways from under the ambit of the Supreme Court restrictions.

Once the council clears the proposal, the government will have to amend the Kerala Highway Protection Act, 1999, that came into force on January 20, 2000. Law secretary B G Harindranath had earlier given a legal opinion to the government that the explanation of section 3 of the Act, which deals with declaration of roads, ways or land as highways, will have to be amended, without which it will be illegal to denotify the state highways.

The Act was framed for the protection of highways and prevention of encroachment.

Source: Times of India

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