Bengaluru: With the Karnataka government relaxing lockdown restrictions in 14 districts of the state on Tuesday, the demand for opening of liquor outlets resurfaced soon after.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah also made the suggestion that the state government allow sale of liquor in green districts that have no active cases of COVID-19, with certain restrictions.
“Merely because there is an economic slowdown in the state, I don’t recommend that alcohol should be allowed to be sold. But, wherever there are green districts, they can open (liquor shops) with certain restrictions, I think that they can do,” Siddaramaiah told reporters in response to a question.
The issue is likely to be discussed during a cabinet meeting on Thursday. State Excise Minister H Nagesh said he will raise the issue during the meeting, adding that such shops, however, cannot be opened only in some places.
“Liquor outlets cannot be opened only in certain places like green zones. That will do more harm as people from across the border will start rushing to the shops. Either it should be opened everywhere or kept shut at all places,” he told CNN-News18.
He said the Excise Department has already incurred a loss of more than Rs 1,800 crore due to the closure of such outlets during lockdown. However, there are only slim chances of their opening at the moment, Nagesh added.
“There is no clarity yet. On Monday, Chief Minster BS Yediyurappa had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for relaxations on liquor shops. The prime minister has replied in the negative. I think it applies to all states. And, we cannot take any decision if the PM doesn’t agree to it.
“Now, after May 3 (when the second of lockdown is scheduled to come to an end), we have requested that the alcohol shops be opened, but the government has not agreed to it. I am getting hundreds of calls about this and also suggestions like opening the outlets for a few hours every day.
“For now, those with withdrawal symptoms must seek counselling. Some people have stopped drinking which is good,” he added.
Deaths due to withdrawal symptoms have been reported from across the country since the lockdown was imposed but the department does not have a tally of these deaths yet, he said.
On April 19, a 45-year-old man died at the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences in Hubli after he drank sanitizer for allegedly containing alcohol.
(With inputs from PTI)
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