‘Ahatas’ (area attached to a liquor shop for people to drink) and shop bars have been closed under the new excise policy that was approved by the Madhya Pradesh cabinet on Sunday.

The announcement comes amid senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti’s demand for a “controlled liquor policy” in MP.

“All ahatas and shop bars are being shut in the state. From here on, liquor will be sold at the shops and places of drinking will not be allowed,” state Home Minister Narottam Mishra said after the cabinet meeting on Sunday evening.

Mishra, who is the state government spokesperson, said the distance of liquor shops from educational institutions, girls’ hostels and religious places is being increased from 50 metres to 100 metres, while laws to cancel the driving licences in cases of drunken driving will be made more stringent.

“Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been working to discourage drinking liquor so no new shop was opened in the state since 2010. On the contrary, shops were closed. During Narmada Seva Yatra, 64 shops were closed in the state. The new excise policy is also designed to discourage liquor consumption,” Mishra said.

Bharti has been campaigning against liquor consumption and has asked the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan not to cash in on the drinking habit of people through a liberal excise regime.

She tied two cows in front of a liquor shop in Orchha town in Niwari district, which is famous for its temples and palaces, and exhorted people to drink milk and not alcohol under her ‘madhushala mein gaushala’ (cowshed in liquor vend) programme.

She had also earlier thrown dung at this shop in protest against the sale of liquor. Bharti, who started her campaign with the demand for total prohibition, has now been asking for regularisation of sale in the state, where Assembly polls are due by the end of the year.