Liquor drives State Highways to turn local

The chief engineer of PWD, however, says that this has nothing to do with the SC liquor ban along highways.

April 04, 2017 03:27 pm | Updated April 05, 2017 08:34 am IST - Jaipur

A closed liquor shop following the directive of the Supreme Court to shut liquor vends located within 500 of national and state highways.

A closed liquor shop following the directive of the Supreme Court to shut liquor vends located within 500 of national and state highways.

States are now re-classifying State Highways into local roads following the Supreme Court order on the ban of liquor outlets located within 500 metres of National and State highways came into effect.

The Rajasthan government passed an order recently to convert a portion of their State Highway roads passing through populous areas into urban and district roads. However, some States such as Kerala will likely seek time from the Supreme Court to implement its order banning the sale of liquor along highways, taking into account the “special situation” in the State.

“We passed an order to convert 129 km of State Highways into urban roads and a 63 km stretch into other district roads at 25 locations around ten days back,” Shiv Laheri Sharma, chief engineer of Rajasthan’s Public Works Department told The Hindu .

Justification for change

Mr. Sharma, however, said that only certain sections of State Highways, which are passing through populous towns, have been de-notified and said that the Supreme Court’s order had “no influence on the State government’s decision”.

“At many locations, bypass roads have been constructed. So, the portion of the State Highways passing through the city where bypass roads have been constructed are re-designated as urban roads and the old portion of the highways has been renamed as ‘other district roads’,” Mr. Sharma said. According to one estimate, around 450 liquor shops were located on such stretches.

Similarly, the Chandigarh administration issued a notification on March 16 to convert a significant portion of its State Highways into major district roads (MDRs). “The administration had inadvertently turned all sector-dividing roads into State Highways a few years back, which was not the right way of classifying the roads. So, now, we have de-notified the State Highways into major district roads,” said an official from the engineering department of the Chandigarh administration.

The Supreme Court in its March 31 order had said that liquor vends within 500 metres of National and State highways would have to shut down from April 1.

NHs not an easy task

Experts said the State government can issue a notification to convert State Highways into district roads. However, the de-notification of national highways can only be affected by the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry.

“Classification of MDRs and State Highways is the Statesx’ prerogative. So, they can notify or de-notify the road stretch as per their own requirements. However, once it gets classified as a National Highway, the de-notification can only come from the Central government,” said Rajeshwar Burla, Assistant Vice President at ICRA Ltd.

The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry has not received any request from State governments yet to de-notify National Highways, a top Ministry official said. However, experts cautioned the Central government of such a move.

“The implications of converting National Highways into State Highways would certainly be significant. The maintenance responsibility in such cases will shift to the States, which lack the capacity in some cases, compared to Central authorities,” said Manish Agarwal, partner and leader, infrastructure, PwC India.

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