Liquor shops open, then shut again

People form a queue to buy liquor in east Delhi on Monday.

People form a queue to buy liquor in east Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Chaos reigns across city as crowds fail to adhere to social distancing norms

Hundreds of people thronged liquor shops across Delhi on Monday as the vends opened after a gap of 40 days, leading to chaos as customers did not adhere to social distancing norms. In north, east and south Delhi, the police had to resort to crowd-controlling measures to manage the crowd. By the afternoon, most of the shops were told to shut as the situation grew out of control.

“Liquor shops in Delhi will remain shut till vendors make arrangements such as deployment of marshals and markings on ground to ensure social distancing. All beat staff have been instructed to be vigilant and not allow any shop to operate if the vendor does not follow safety protocols,” said a senior police officer.

With only a select number of vends open, those looking to buy alcohol had to first find a shop that was open and then join a serpentine queue. “I have visited four wine shops in the area but they are all closed. I have been walking from one shop to the other only to find shuttered stores. I came early hoping to avoid the rush but it looks like there are none open near my neighbourhood,” said Vivek, a resident of Jangpura.

In areas where the vends were open, residents complained about the chaos.

In C-Bock Market of Vasant Vihar, long queues outside a liquor shop prompted the Vasant Vihar Welfare Association to alert authorities about the situation. Chaos was also seen outside liquor shops in Malviya Nagar and Vasant Kunj with people queuing up as early as 7 a.m. to buy alcohol.

Health Minister Satyendar Jain said that the Delhi government did not give any extra relaxation and the liquor vends were opened as per central government guidelines. The Excise Department said that 160 out of 800 liquor shops were permitted to open.

The four government corporations that own these vends are supposed to deploy marshals and ensure that no more than five people are allowed inside a vend at any given time, read an order issued by Chief Secretary Vijay Dev on Sunday. “The onus for opening any shop and fulfilling qualifying criteria under Clause-7 (ii) (d) of the MHA’s Order dated 01.05.2020 shall be on the corporation concerned,” it further added.

Ravi Dhawan, Commissioner of the Department of Excise, Entertainment & Luxury Tax, did not respond to multiple phone calls and messages seeking comment.

A report prepared by Delhi Police on the situation suggested that shop timings should be extended and there should be sufficient stock of liquor. It, however, added that crowd-management measures need to be taken on priority.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 4:41:59 AM |

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