Hyderabad: Police and Prohibition and Excise departments appear to have locked horns in the last few days over permitting sale of liquor during lockdown in the State. While the Police Department is strictly enforcing the lockdown, the Prohibition and Excise Department is annoyed with the former for its alleged highhandedness with liquor shop owners in doing business even during lockdown relaxation timing from 6 am to 10 am.
On Wednesday morning, Chilkalguda police forced the owner of a liquor outlet in Mettuguda to close the shop by 9.15 am as against 10 am, with a large number of customers still waiting in queue. Two shop employees were also taken to the police station and a case was booked against them under provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Disaster Management Act.
When the shopkeeper tried to explain to the police that they had permission to keep their shops open till 10 am, the police did not relent and took the two employees to the police station, sources said.
On learning about it, Musheerabad Excise Inspector B Laxman Goud contacted the Chilkalguda police and explained the provisions of Excise Act. “No one including Excise officials have a right to close a licensed shop. But a case can be booked if there are any violations,” he said.
He said the police let the two employees go in the afternoon. According to shopkeepers, each shop owner in municipal corporation limits must pay Rs 27 lakh towards licence fee by June second week while others in rural areas have to pay Rs 18 lakh.
“How can we pay taxes to the Excise Department if we continue to face the same problem for the next few weeks?” shopkeepers asked.
They said the government should come up with proper guidelines to enable them conduct their business without any trouble. They said the police were booking cases against the staff while returning home after closing the shop at 10 am. The police officials, however, said they were enforcing lockdown strictly to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“We are discharging our duty in the larger interest of the people,” they added. When contacted, Chilkalguda Inspector G Naresh said: “We booked a case against the liquor shop employees for failing to ensure Covid safety protocols. Physical distance was not maintained at the shop.”
Many cash in on demand for alcohol
The ongoing lockdown has come as a bonanza for some people who have been buying liquor during the relaxation period and selling it at higher prices to make a quick buck.
These people are purchasing cheap liquor in bulk and selling it to customers known to them in the evening, charging an additional Rs 50 to Rs 100 per bottle. For instance, a quarter bottle of Officer’s Choice whisky is sold at Rs 120 in liquor outlets and the same is being sold in black for Rs 180 to Rs 200 depending on the demand from customers, sources said.
Some are also selling other popular brands like Royal Stag and Blenders Pride whisky at premium price and cashing in on the demand, said Telangana Wine Dealers Association president D Venkateswara Rao.
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