Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 8:

A day after announcing to shift liquor outlets within 500 metres of national and state highways by March 31, Odisha Excise Minister Damodar Rout today appeared helpless about the effective containment of liquor sale along the highways.

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Rout, who earlier drew criticism for saying it was impossible to relocate liquor shops, today argued that the Supreme Court directive many not bear desired results as the roadside eateries such as dhabas and hotels will continue to serve liquor illegally.

“Most of the licensed liquor shops along the national and state highways shut shop by 8 to 9 pm. But the hotels and dhabas operate all through the night and serve liquor to customers. Do the dhabawallas take license from the government,” questioned Rout.

When countered that his department should take necessary action to prevent illegal sale, he shot back, “We use the police and the excise officials to contain such sales. But, what we can do, if they receive kickbacks from these eateries?”

It may be mentioned here that in a ruling on December 15, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that the liquor shops must be moved at least 500 meters away from state and national highways. The judges further ordered that liquor banners and ads be removed from these spots.

Expressing concern over the 1.5 lakh deaths that occur every year in road accidents across the country, the court had asked the Chief Secretary and police chiefs of states to enforce the ruling by April 1, 2017.