According to the new set of guidelines for the second phase of the ongoing nationwide lockdown, the sale of alcohol will be banned until May 3. The decision comes amid a few state governments contemplating the option of re-opening liquor stores in order to generate revenue.
Apparently, the central government was following the suggestions of the WHO on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
As of now, there are 18,658 active COVID-19 cases in India while 592 people have lost their lives owing to the disease.
Nationwide lockdown in India
Initially, The government imposed a 21- day lockdown in the country, starting from March 25. Three weeks later, the lockdown was extended till May 3.
This was followed by the release of the guidelines by MHA, which also included banning the sale of liquor.
The reason behind the ban
According to a report in ET, the findings of WHO is what urged the government to take this decision. According to the global health organization, alcohol weakens the immunity of the body.
Recently, the organization’s regional office in Europe noted, “Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of communicable and non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Advisory released by the Health Ministry
The harmful effects of alcohol consumption were mentioned in detail in an advisory released by the Ministry of Health. The title of the advisory was “Minding our minds.”
The document stated, “The use of tobacco/alcohol/other drugs to cope with emotions or boredom can worsen physical and mental health, and reduce immunity. People who already have a substance use problem may require professional help, especially when they feel low or are stressed.”
Others reasons that prompted the ban
Another major reason for this decision was domestic abuse. According to a senior official, there was an increase in the instances of domestic abuse during the lockdown period and alcohol amplifies it.
Moreover, the government was concerned the opening up liquor stores would lead to serpentine queues and this may go against the norms of social distancing. This is why banning the sale of alcohol seems the right thing to do.
Suggestions by states were not entertained
The ban is proving to cause great losses to the states. Hence, a few states tried to reason with the Union government.
Some states said that they will facilitate home delivery of liquor. Others requested that the liquor shops should be allowed to operate for limited hours.
However, none of these suggestions and requests were taken into consideration.
The states that were allowing liquor shops to operate had to order the outlets to be shut after the Centre intervened.
Distilleries can work amid the liquor sale ban
The ban is causing big states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to lose around 50-100 crore daily.
Recently, the UP government said that the distilleries may resume functioning from April 20. However, the packaging, bottling, and sale of liquor were not allowed before May 3.
An official said “Sale of liquor is neither an essential activity nor is it a perishable commodity,”
Revenue has been hit hard
It’s a tough situation for the states. A ban on alcohol will “protect people” but it will cause considerable monetary loss. For most states, 15-30 percent of revenue comes from alcohol sales.
Development activities halted to save money
Recently, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal called for reducing expenses. He ordered the departments to stop all kinds of spendings, with the exception of salaries.
Thomas Isaac, the Finance Minister of Kerala, also pointed out that the states are running out of capital.
He said “Most states have limited the borrowing to Rs. 500-1,000 crore [at an interest rate of 9% or so] and started cutting salaries or halting other developmental activities.”