Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Nov 8:
Opposition parties and civil society members today protested against the Odisha Government’s decision to extend the business hours of all liquor shops till 12 midnight in five corporation cities of the State, including Bhubaneswar.
While the Congress and BJP criticized the move of the state government, Milita Odisha Nisha Nibaran Abhiyan (MONNA), a city-based civil society group, today staged a dharna in front of State Excise Minister Damodar Rout’s official residence demanding total prohibition in the state with immediate effect.
An October 22 notification of Odisha Excise Department had said; “The government has decided to open the liquor shops like on-shops, off-shops, bars and country liquor vends in the Municipal Corporation Areas like Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela till 12 midnight.” Earlier, it was restricted to 10 PM,” the notification had added.
“We had submitted a memorandumto the Chief Minister of Odisha containing 10 lakh signatures on October 2 seeking total prohibition in the state. The Chief Minister had assured us to look into the matter. Instead, the government has now decided to extend the availability of liquor up to midnight. This is an insult to the people of the state,” said Bijay Kumar Swain, convener of the civil society group.
On the other hand, senior BJP leader and party spokesperson Suresh Pujari condemned the move of the government saying the move would further increase the already high number cases of atrocities against women, road accidents and violence in the state.
“It is a shameful act by the government, which clearly has no cncern for citizens’ life and well being. Tomorrow, it would make liquor sale a round-the-clock business for the sake of revenue,” Pujari said.
Senior Congress leader and leader of Opposition Narsingha Mishra played it safe saying; “Neither do I support this move nor object to it”.
Replying to the criticism, Excise Minister Dr Damodar Rout said on October 25, a revised notification had been issued making ti clear that the extension of liquor sale hours is applicable only to on-shops and bars and not others.
“The step by the government will attract more tourists from outside to our state, thus bringing in more revenue,” Dr Rout added.
Last year, the Excise department had collected Rs 1780 crore as excise revenue in the state. This year Rs 2150 crore has been targeted by government, he said.