Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India launched the second edition of its campaign against liquor stores in Delhi on a spirited note on 5 November, by referring to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia as "Badal of Shiromani Akali Dal" and "Bikram Singh Majithia" respectively.
Swaraj India alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has made Delhi "an illegal liquor den".
The reference was obviously to the drug menace that had gripped the state of Punjab purportedly under the tenure of the previous Shiromani Akali Dal government in the state.
By launching the second phase of the campaign, Swaraj India wanted to highlight how the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi forgot its own promise of "nasha-mukt Dilli". Ahead of Delhi Assembly election, the AAP in its 70-point election manifesto had promised to make ‘Delhi free of addictions’.
The campaign is quite similar to the one Swaraj India had launched in 2016. The difference is that while the first campaign was against misgovernance on the issuance of liquor licences by the Delhi government, the latest one is related to "exposing a scam" related to alleged manipulation of regulations related to granting of the liquor licence.
The campaign began on Sunday with a large number of Swaraj India volunteers and local residents led by the party’s Delhi president Anupam staging a demonstration in front of the Cross River Mall at Karkarduma in East Delhi, demanding immediate closing of licensed liquor stores situated at the mall premises.
"Last year, we launched a campaign against the opening of liquor stores in residential colonies without the permission of the local residents. The Kejriwal government had issued 399 licences to open liquor shops in Delhi. But, this time our campaign is against violating the regulations and granting licences under L-10 category of the Excise Act. It’s a matter of cross violation. The Delhi government is illegally distributing L-10 category liquor licences enabling dealers to open stores in shopping malls of the city, without following the norms of malls," Anupam told Firstpost.
Violation of Excise Department’s regulations
According to Swaraj India, the Delhi government has violated three important rules laid down by the Excise Department while granting L-10 licences:
- A shopping mall may be defined as a centrally air-conditioned place, where a number of shops are located in a building or a set of buildings with inter-connecting walkways…with common passage area for buyers/visitors.
- Definition of shops operating from within a mall is clearly stated in the law and the rule mandates that all shops operating from within a mall should open up within the building only and cannot have an entrance towards the exterior side of the mall.
- No L-10 stores should be located within 100 meters of educational institutions, religious places, and hospitals with 50 beds and above.
Allegations of a scam
According to Swaraj India, Delhi’s Excise department offers 32 types of liquor licences. The L-10 category licence enables a dealer to open a liquor shop inside a shopping mall. As per the law, in any shopping mall, all the shops need to be inside the mall premises, and the mall has a common entrance and exit for all the shops or showrooms inside it.
“But the Delhi government and the mall management have created these liquor shops against the approved map of the mall. The liquor shops have the openings outside the mall and anyone can buy liquor without even entering the mall, like in the case of a roadside liquor shop. Not a single objection has been raised or action has been taken by the Excise Department officials against these stores for blatantly violating the rules. One can imagine the amount of money exchanging hands in the process,” Anupam alleged.
The Cross River Mall is just one example, where several liquor stores have become operational. According to Swaraj India, across Delhi, similar ‘illegal liquor stores’ are operational in several shopping malls, and for which the Delhi government has given L-10 license by twisting the rules and norms.
The local residents alleged that the mall has apparently turned into a liquor den, making visits to the mall disturbing for families.
"Due to the liquor stores, the area outside the mall has turned into a public nuisance. The nearby residents have complained to us that this area has turned into a place for anti-social elements. Daily, there are incidents of squabbles, hooliganism, eve-teasing, chain snatching, etc, whereas the government and police are mute spectators. Kejriwal has become the Badal of Delhi with Sisodia as another Bikram Majithia," alleged Sarvesh Verma, president, Swaraj India Mahila Morcha.
First campaign against liquor stores
Swaraj India started its first campaign in the national capital in August 2016, demanding the closure of liquor shops in residential areas after people from various parts of Delhi raised voice against it. The party that emerged out of AAP — first as a splinter group Swaraj Abhiyan — began public hearings in various localities.
"These liquor stores were becoming a public nuisance and unsafe for women and children. A party (AAP) that came to power with a promise of 'nasha-mukt Dilli' (addiction-free Delhi), after forming the government, granted 399 licenses in 371 working days, which is unfortunate. Our campaign led by Yadav and Prashant Bhushan resulted in the closure of some of these stores. Keeping Punjab Assembly election in mind, it had compelled Kejriwal to announce that Delhi government won’t grant any further licences in Delhi," said Swaraj India’s spokesperson Ashutosh Mishra.
“Swaraj India demanded the government to make its excise policy public. In December 2016, a detailed suggestion on the excise policy for Delhi targetting a gradual move towards minimising alcohol consumption was sent to the Delhi government. Unfortunately, the AAP government has not responded on its new excise policy. It’s still in waiting,” he added.
What does the Excise Department say?
"Licence to every liquor shop in Delhi was granted as per the rules set by the government and no violation has taken place. The L-10 licences were given as per the terms and conditions laid down by the department. No illegal (without proper licence) shops are operating in the city,” an Excise Department official told Firstpost.
Next course of action
"Most surprising part is that despite the fact that the liquor stores at Cross River Mall are situated just opposite to a Ram temple which is in clear dereliction of terms and conditions laid down by the excise department the local corporator, the local MLA and the MP — all of whom are from BJP — didn’t raise any objection to it. The scam is going on in collusion of AAP and BJP,” claimed Anupam.
The party has demanded that the Delhi government should put a check on the scam, initiate an inquiry and punish the culprits.
“Like in the past, we’ll convert this campaign into a movement to put an end to all such liquor stores and ensure that Delhi doesn’t turn into a liquor capital,” added Anupam.
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Updated Date: Nov 07, 2017 15:13:25 IST