Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Criticising the idea of State government to encourage mushrooming of liquor shops in Odisha, the Opposition BJP and Congress have termed it unfortunate alleging that the 'revenue-thirsty' Naveen-led BJD is giving flames to crime rate by flooding the State with alcohol.

Even as the entire nation has come together to observe 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi, Odisha is keen on opening new liquor outlets in every nook and corner just to enhance the economy, carped BJP deputy leader Bishnu Sethi at the Assembly today.

"It is unfortunate to see Odisha government trying to flood the State with liquor. I would like to ask the government what kind of respect is this towards Mahatma Gandhi that it has decided to increase the outlets. The fight is now between alcohol and Omfed milk and only time will say who among the two will sustain and emerge victorious in the battle. This is in fact horrible if the State government has devised this liquor-way to boost Odisha's revenue," said Sethi.

Congress too vented similar opinion. While MLA Moquim blamed the government for allegedly making the people alcoholic, senior leader Tara Bahinipati restated that the move is aimed at drawing more Percentage Commission (PC) from newly proposed liquor shops.

"Odisha government is trying to make people alcoholic. Even though crime rate has risen due to alcohol consumption, liquor shops are being opened here at an increasing rate. We will ensure no further liquor shops are opened in the State," said Congress' Cuttack-Barabati MLA Mohammed Moquim.

Senior Cong MLA Tara Bahinipati rued, "This present government wants all farmers and labourers to die of alcohol consumption. At a time when women have been staging anti-liquor protests, the government has written to district Collectors to come up with proposals for one outlet in every village. I feel, the government will at least earn Rs 10-20 lakh per outlet as PC."

Even ruling-party MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik has urged the government to rethink about the proposal. "If we are raising our voices against opening of more liquor outlets, we must also ensure that this does not encourage illegal liquor trade. It is being argued that liquor is a revenue-generating source for the State. So, I would like to reiterate that the government should rethink and assess the proportion of profit and loss if new outlets are opened," requested Patnaik.

However, State Excise & Revenue Minister Niranjan Pujari said, "The proposal has been made for 2020-21 as current fiscal year's policy has already been drafted. There is no certainty however. A decision on this would be taken after budget."

Amidst all this, Kendrapara witnessed a massive anti-liquor protest today wherein women of Nageswarpur under Sadar police limits broke into a liquor shop and ransacked the property. Alleging that most of the families are getting ruined due to alcohol abuse, the agitating women demanded the district administration to immediately shut the liquor outlet.