Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday announced major changes in his government’s excise policy, which include lowering the legal age to drink from 25 to 21, closing all government-run liquor shops and a freeze on the present number of vends.
The changes are in line with the recommendations of an expert committee, which were then studied by a group of ministers of the Delhi government. The GoM firmed up a final list of recommendations, which were approved by the Delhi Cabinet on Monday.
Sisodia said the lowering in the permissible age from 25 to 21 has been done to bring it in line with the legal age for drinking in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. He said individuals who are younger than 21 years will not be able to enter premises serving liquor unless accompanied by a responsible adult.
Unveiling the new liquor policy, the deputy chief minister said the changes are aimed at dealing with issues such as non-equitable distribution of liquor shops, liquor mafia thriving in areas that are under-served and revenue from private vends being far higher than the government-run shops.
There are 850 liquor vends in Delhi at present, and 50 per cent of those are in 45 wards. Sisodia said that around 2000 shops are being operated by the liquor mafia.
“In the last three to four years, the excise department has tried to crack down on the liquor mafia. But we have been able to tackle only a very small segment of the illicit liquor market,” Sisodia said.
He said no new liquor shops will be opened while ensuring equitable distribution of vends across the capital.
With government-run shops plagued with problems such as brand pushing and tax evasion, Sisodia said it has been decided that only private-run liquor vends will be allowed.
“We have decided to close government-run liquor shops. Also, liquor shops will have to adhere to a minimum area requirement of 500 square feet. It will be the responsibility of the shop owners to ensure law and order and cleanliness and also that there is no open consumption of liquor in front of the shop,” he said.
The government has also decided to do away with many permissions and licences that restaurants and hotels had to procure in order to serve liquor. The reforms are expected to result in the excise revenue going up by Rs 1500-2000 crore in one year, Sisodia said.