Bhopal: In a major showdown ahead of the new financial year, liquor shops in Bhopal and Indore were shut down for more than 24 hours. The shops were re-opened after a meeting between members of the contractors association and the government late Friday evening.
The shops were shut down at 4 pm on Thursday when the excise department personnel entered the shops and started “ taking stock of the availability of liquor.” The two cities generate almost 25% of the excise revenue of the state.
In the day-long drama, the contractors also held a demonstration near the bungalow of the finance minister Jagdish Dewda in Bhopal.
Rishi Sharma, spokesman of Madhya Pradesh Sharab Thekedar Sangh, association of liquor contractors of the state, alleged that all that was done “to force us to accept an incremental excise policy not accepted by us.” He was addressing a press conference in Bhopal. Sharma said, “The excise department personnel were interfering in the functioning of the shops. They were closing our shops, not allowing the sales.”
When TOI asked the Excise commissioner about the crisis, he said, “This is a local issue and only local officials can answer.”
The association alleged that in Bhopal alone, there was a loss of about Rs 3.5 crore since 4 pm Thursday when all the liquor shops of Bhopal were shut down. The liquor contractors said that they “do not accept the government’s new liquor policy for renewing the liquor contracts.” The contracts generate over Rs 10,000 crore revenue, important for the cash starved state. The government expects to earn additional revenue by “forcing the liquor traders to accept the new conditions.”
The liquor contractors have been at loggerheads with the government for the past two financial years as the government pushed the trade to earn extra bucks. Amidst lockdown, the government wanted the traders to operate during the lockdown but they denied.
All this had been happening when one section of the ruling party led by former chief minister Uma Bharti have been demanding prohibition in the state.