The Reopening of Liquor Shops and the fall of Social Distancing

The government’s reopening of liquor shops in certain areas had disastrous consequences, with people momentarily forgetting about the threat posed by the Coronavirus as they lined up in long and tightly-packed queues outside the ‘Wine and Beer’ shops. This was a highly criticized and short-sighted move by the various state governments across the country who were accused of risking more cases in order to rake in the hefty liquor tax money during the forced economic slowdown. The populace’s desperation to get their hands on some liquor was perhaps demonstrated best in Nainital, where heavy rain and a hailstorm couldn’t stop people from queuing up in the hundreds, umbrellas in hand.

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In Karnataka alone, Rs 197 crore worth of liquor was sold in a single day on May 5, 2020, prompting the government to plan a COVID-tax on liquor of 5-15%, following in the footsteps of Delhi where the tax amounts to 70% of the MRP. These governments claim to have raised taxes in order to ‘discourage alcohol consumption’, but some administrations have been forced to come up with more effective and ingenious means. In Pune, a token system is now in practice, while Mumbai, Solapur, Aurangabad, Jalna, Buldhana, and Amravati districts have shuttered their liquor shops once again so as to not exacerbate the delicate condition in the hardest-hit state of Maharashtra. Other states might need to look to these places and attempt to find a way to collect revenue without risking lives.

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