The illegal vends thrive mostly in slums and among poorer sections in many districts

Liquor traders are not the only ones who are preparing for a fresh round of tenders to be held soon for allotment of wine shops in the State. Operators of ‘belt shops' too are gearing up for a new innings in the wake of the losses caused by the ongoing crackdown on liquor syndicates.

Over the years, the belt shop gamut has evolved itself into a pulsating parallel liquor economy in many districts, including Adilabad, which makes it extremely difficult to curb the activity. It commands a larger share in sale of alcohol everyday, evident from the fact that the four licensed vends in Adilabad town record a cumulative sale of Rs. 4 lakh while the belt shops ‘serviced' by them sell over Rs. 5 lakh worth of booze.

Adilabad district records a sale of over Rs. 600 crore of liquor through the AP Beverages Corporation Limited, of which about 60 per cent is consumed in belt shops. As over 70 per cent of the liquor sold is of cheaper variety, the illegal vends thrive mostly in slums and poorer sections.

The seemingly mad phenomenon of illegal liquor vends actually has a method to it. Respective village development committees auction the ‘rights' for the shop while liquor is supplied from government licenced shops to which the concerned belt shop is ‘attached'. The annual fee for each of the belt shops ranges between Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh depending on the size of population it services and the quantum of business. For instance, the annual fee paid by the belt shop operator at Chanda (T) is Rs. 11.20 lakh while it is Rs. 6 lakh at Kajjerla village.

The belt shops also generate good ‘side income' for not only the Excise and police officials but also for local politicians. The mamools paid by liquor syndicates to these segments is one of the key components of the parallel economy. A section of the people who believe the belt shops to be an extension of regular liquor outlets suggest regularisation of the illegal outlets.

Keywords: liquor economy