Liquor makers pitch for crowd management, online sales as boozers swarm shops

NEW DELHI: Alcohol makers pitched for allowing online sales of spirits and crowd management at liquor shops as stores at several places in the country were ordered to put up the shutters on Monday with thousands of anxious tipplers breaking social distancing protocol.
As India entered the third phase of lockdown and some restriction were lifted, major revenue contributor liquor shops were allowed to reopen after almost 40 days gap under the new guidelines.
But many shops in parts of Delhi, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh had to be shut just minutes after they opened as restless, edgy crowds milled around, forgetting all about social distancing norms necessary to ward off COVID-19.
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Alcohol industry bodies as All India Distillers Association (AIDA), All India Brewers’ Association (AIBA) and Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) pointed out that there were reports and chaos at liquor shops, which opened on Monday as the product was absent from the market during the one-and-a-half month-long prohibition during the lockdown.
Some of them said that they have already anticipated such a rush and had suggested the government to permit online sales of liquor in the country, delivering the product at the consumer’s door.
All India Distillers Association, while welcoming the government’s step to allow liquor shop to open in the green zones, said that local authorities should have controlled the crowd at the shops.
“The government would have to control it, we have witnessed today a lot of rush on the shops and local police, which was required to control the crowd, was not there. I also hope and expect the public to behave in a responsible manner following the norms of the social distancing,” AIDA Director General V N Raina told PTI.
On being asked about the quantum of sale, Raina said that definitely, sales in the urban areas were higher.
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“The government needs revenue and the maximum revenue comes from the liquor industry,” he said adding “we expect that the government would also allow sales of liquor in the orange zone also.”
Indian alcohol manufacturers’ body CIABC said that when any much wanted product remains absent from the market following a prohibition of almost 40 days, it would attract lots of buyers.
“This would happen to any industry,” said CIABC chairman director general Vinod Giri when asked about the reports of people thronging before liquor shops.
He suggested that the government should allow online sales of liquor like other products. This would ensure compliance of the social distance norms during the lockdown period as well.
If channels such as online sales are permitted, it reduces the load on the shop and a lot of people would not need to go to the shop, the CIABC said.
AIBA director-general Shobhan Roy said that the industry has already anticipated such a rush and had suggested the government to allow online shopping in the liquor segment.
“We have already suggested home delivery for liquor as we had anticipated that there would be rush and crowding. This can only help in reducing the footfalls at the liquor shops,” he said.
However, over the crowd and violation of laws, Roy said that people need to be coached and should have the patience for their turn.
“I hope that everybody would fall back and take corrective action for what has happened today,” said Roy, adding “one has to work out how this has to be done. The ground is with the administration.”
On being asked about the industry, Roy said that the liquor industry contributes around Rs 2.5 lakh crore to the exchequers of the state government.
The industry size is around 330 million cases of beer (9 litres each), 350 million cases of spirits and 300 million cases of country liquor.
India is presently going through an unprecedented complete lockdown from March 25, to prevent the spread of the virus. On Friday, the government had extended it for two weeks from May 4 with certain relaxations.
According to the latest updates from the health ministry, India has over 42,800 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,350 have lost their lives.

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