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Lower legal drinking age from 25 to 21: Delhi panel



NEW DELHI: The legal drinking age in the capital might be lowered from the present 25 to 21, “soft” liquor like beer and wine might become easily available at departmental stores, and dry days might be reduced to three if the recommendations of a committee set up by the Delhi government are implemented.
In September, deputy CM Manish Sisodia had constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the excise commissioner to suggest measures for augmenting state excise revenue, including measures to simplify the liquor price mechanism and checking malpractices and evasion of duty in the liquor trade.

The committee was mandated to ensure equitable access to liquor supply and suggest measures to “transform the nature of liquor trade commensurate to the changing stature of the capital”.

While there are 864 liquor vends in Delhi, these are not equally distributed across the city. The report of the committee has suggested that there should be ideally three vends in each of the 272 municipal wards, with a total of 816 vends, apart from 24 vends in NDMC areas and six at IGI Airport.

The committee has recommended that the age for drinking may be fixed at 21 years and dry days are reduced to three. It has also called for a new policy for issuing retail licences to departmental stores for selling beer, wine and other “soft” liquor categories and ease of doing business for hotels, clubs and restaurants, including ease of getting licences. It has also recommended bringing the entire wholesale operation of the IMFL trade under one government corporation.

The recommendations of the committee will soon be put in the public domain for inviting suggestions from Delhiites, including stakeholders. The report will then be submitted to the Delhi government after 24 days and a final decision will be taken by the Delhi cabinet. The approved recommendations will form a part of the excise policy for financial year 2021-22.

The committee’s recommendations are aimed at not only augmenting the government’s revenues that have been hit hard by the pandemic but also resuscitating the hospitality industry, which is one of the worst-affected ones.
Equitable distribution of liquor vends is aimed at equitable access of liquor supply to all residents of Delhi in order to ensure there are no “unserved” and “under-served” areas by ward-wise allocation of vends. The committee has also suggested promotion of consumer choice and avoidance of malpractices like “brand pushing”.

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