Who’ll stop dhabas, hotels from selling liquor, asks Dama

Bhubaneswar:  Even as the State government, obeying the Supreme Court order, has initiated steps to shift liquor shops 500 meter away from the national and state highways, Excise minister Damodar Rout on Sunday stirred up a hornet’s nest by asking how to stop sale of liquor at roadside dhabas and hotels.

The question has raised many eyebrows how the police administration and Excise officials are involved in the ‘unauthorised’ sale of liquor at these food joints.

“Mostly all the liquor shops near the national and State highways are closed by 8 to 9 pm. But the hotels and dhabas which are open throughout the night, serve liquor to customers. Have the dhabawallas taken license from the government to sale liquor?” asked Rout.

“If we want to stop these activities then we have to approach the police and the Excise officials. But what we can do, if both are into receiving kickbacks from the food joints?” asked Rout. He was responding to queries of the media on the steps taken by the State government to curb the sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and State highways.

Since it is clear from the statement of the minister that the activities are running under the nose of government officials, it too showed the government’s helplessness to stop liquor sale at these unauthorised points.

When the newsmen wanted to know about the timeline, if any, set by the State government to implement the SC order, Rout in his usual style said, “Liquor is a social evil….it is like an epidemic which has seeped into every corner of the society”.

Earlier, after the SC order, the minster in a similar fashion had said it is impossible to impose a blanket ban on consumption and manufacture of liquor in Odisha. Terming it “unrealistic”, he had noted that consumption of liquor was a personal affair.

“It is not a realistic step to declare total prohibition in the State. Since liquor consumption is a personal affair, ban on it by the government would lead to illegal and illicit trade of liquor,” Rout had said.