Here’s some sobering news for those who like to stock liquor at home: it cannot be more than two bottles anymore in Maharashtra. Though, it is indeed a fact that a while ago the policy had been relaxed and was in force till Saturday.
Two Marathi newspapers, Pudhari and Loksatta cited V Radha, the state excise commissioner as saying the tightening of the recently-relaxed rule was already in force. She was on a visit to Ralegansidhi for consultations with Anna Hazare. Firstpost has not verified this independently.
The relaxed rules had allowed storing 48 beer bottles of 650ml each or 24 wine bottles (750ml) or 16 hard liquor bottles (750 ml) at home for a month. Permit holders were combination of all three categories, provided the total content in all bottles put together does not exceed 12 units of pure spirits.
Apparently, this was a response to anti-liquor civic society, which had feared that kind of stocking would amount to virtually converting a home into a liquor store of sorts and encourage alcoholism. Hazare is one of the key leaders of anti-alcohol campaigns.
While 'reforming' the village he now lives in, he was not averse to thrashing alcoholics; booze was banned by him — stocking, selling, or consuming. He has been pressing for such a policy across the state, but prohibition is unlikely for now. Probably he is agreeable to limiting consumption.
This points to a clear series of flipflops, welcomed in some quarters and frowned at in others, depending on who likes liquor and who doesn’t. The Congress-NCP government had set the limit to two units a week, that is, eight units a month. Incumbent government brought back the 12-unit limit allowed some five years back.
Since Morarji Desai’s time, Mumbai and Maharashtra have had the ‘permit’ method where a drinker needed one on health grounds to consumer it. They were served in bars which came to be known as ‘permit rooms’ but it was a lax system. Later, bars were allowed to issue temporary one-day permits too, making the medical requirement a farce.
The state’s excise revenue is high, at upwards of Rs 13,500 crore and another Rs 80,000 crore by way of VAT, in the previous fiscal, according to Livemint, which it can ill-afford to forego mainly because, as in virtually every state, the resources are inefficiently managed, building up huge debts. This new restriction could dent the revenues.
A unit is equal to a litre of country liquor or IMFL with a pure spirit content of about 40 percent. Beer and wine have lesser content, of 12-13 percent and proportionately, the unit is calculated. This is a useful formula: multiply the standard millilitre unit fixed by 12 permissible units, then divide it by the number by the quantity of bottles in millilitres.
The two newspapers reported that steps were afoot to strengthen the gram suraksha dal by giving them a legal status so they could help enforce official restrictions on storage, which implies also consumption control. If there are complaints against illicit distillation, complaints could be lodged on toll-free 180008333333 or by WhatApp to 8422001133, Loksatta said.