Maharashtra denotifies highways in three cities

Jalgaon, Latur, Yavatmal first off the block to circumvent SC ban on liquor within 500 metres of highways; Minister expects more proposals soon

Updated - April 06, 2017 08:29 am IST

Published - April 06, 2017 01:00 am IST

Samudra Family Restaurant & Bar in on Estern express highway in Thane removing name after SC orders ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways.

Samudra Family Restaurant & Bar in on Estern express highway in Thane removing name after SC orders ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways.

Mumbai: If you are driving on the highways passing through Jalgaon, Latur, and Yavatmal in Maharashtra, chances are you could circumvent the recent Supreme Court ban on selling alcohol within 500 meters of state and national highways.

Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Chandrakant Patil on Wednesday said the government has cleared proposals from Jalgaon, Latur and Yavatmal municipal corporations to denotify state highways in their respective jurisdictions and convert them into civic roads.

What rules say

As per current rules, a resolution cleared by the general body of the civic authority is sent to the State chief secretary by the CEO or the commissioner of the corporation. This proposal is then transferred to the PWD, which is the final authority to denotify the road. While total length of state highways is 33,330 kilometres, the PWD has no estimate as to what portion of these roads might be denotified in the near future.

Mr. Patil said, “It is up to the respective municipal corporations and municipal councils to pass a resolution in their general body meeting. The resolution should mention that the said civic body is ready to maintain the roads passing through the respective cities. We will denotify the road as state and national highway, and it will be handed over to these corporations.”

Meanwhile, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), has reacted sharply to the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the ban on selling or serving of liquor along the highways. Senior HRAWI officials told The Hindu that the ban will spell doom for the industry.

Dilip Datwani, president, HRAWI, said, “Around 35,000 restaurants and bars could face closure or downsizing in western India alone. This decision may lead to loss of employment for more than 10 lakh people directly and indirectly. Businesses cannot be run in an environment of uncertainty. An abrupt cancellation of sale of a core product will create havoc. Many of our member restaurants and hotels are in debt, and this ban could further hurt their business and their ability to repay.”

₹7,000-crore loss

Maharashtra’s Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had announced in the Assembly last Saturday that this ban will result in an estimated loss of ₹7,000 crore to the exchequer. In Maharashtra, he said, of the total 25,513 liquor licenses, 15,699 will be affected: 4,969 along the national highways and 10,730 along the State highways. “We will not charge any new licence or transfer fee from these establishments if they choose to move beyond the 500-metre stipulation by the Supreme Court.”

PWD circular

The PWD in 2001 had issued a circular as per which the corporations and the councils can acquire highways if those roads are equipped with circular or ring roads. Until now, none of the civic bodies had applied, but with the SC verdict, the requests are likely to increase. “One reason why no such proposal was presented to us earlier was that the civic bodies do not find it economically viable to maintain the highways. But now it seems that these bodies will buckle under pressure from lobbies following the SC ban,” said a senior PWD official.

“Maharashtra has 13,655 bars and liquor shops, of which about 290 bars shall be hit only in Mumbai. In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, 2,000 outlets will be affected, and 9,925 such establishments in the State are at the risk of losing business,” said Kamlesh Barot, past president, Federation of the Hotels and Restaurants Associations of India (FHRAI).

He said, “The Indian food service industry today stands at an estimated ₹408,000 crore. Close to half of this revenue might be affected due to the ban. In terms of revenue loss, we expect a 30% dip in liquor sales and a 20% dip in food sales because when people drink, they also order finger food. In hotels along the highways, people might stay away from dry establishments. The travel and tourism sector generates 3.74 crore jobs, and we expect a serious downturn in employment generation if this ban continues.”

Unlicensed bars

The HRAWI fears that only licensed bars will stop serving liquor following the order, while unlicensed bars will continue to serve liquor. “Travellers keen on consuming alcohol will find ways to procure it,” said Bharat Malkani, a former office-bearer of HRAWI. “These steps may not act as a deterrent. Drunk driving is a problem across the world, and most countries have evolved efficient and moderate measures to counter the menace.”

(With inputs from Sonam Saigal and Deborah Cornelious)

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