Hyderabad, June 24 (INN): The Opposition parties in the State on Monday demanded that the Government take over retail liquor trade to end the menace of unauthorized liquor outlets and facilitate restriction of liquor consumption.
If the Government does not revoke the continuation of last year’s policy of allotting liquor shops for a fixed license fee through draw of lots, the Opposition parties will observe dharna at Excise Department’s district offices on July 1 and smash belt shops from July 2.
The Opposition parties took the decisions at an all-party meeting on ‘Belt shops – liquor policy-united action’ held under the auspices of the Lok Satta Party. Representatives of the Congress, CPI, CPI (M), RSP and Welfare Party took part in the meeting presided over State Lok Satta Party President Katari Srinivasa Rao.
Initiating the discussion, Srinivasa Rao pointed out that belt shops continue to flourish a month and half after Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy announced in the presence of Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh that belt shops would be shut down in a month. He underlined that the emergence of belt shops is a direct fallout of the State Government’s liquor policy of keeping liquor trade in private hands many of them belonging to ‘sara’ (traditional political) parties.
Srinivasa Rao said that the Government has not taken up any meaningful campaign to restrict liquor consumption although it publicizes vote catching schemes on a large scale.
CPI leader K. Ramakrishna said that the Government has consistently been ignoring practical suggestions made by Opposition parties. CPI (M) representative T. Sagar suggested that the Government spend 15 percent of Excise income on a campaign against liquor consumption.
Congress leader N. Tulasi Reddy said that although his party is committed to Prohibition in principle, it has not been to implement it as it had given rise to anti-social forces in the past. He said that the Government has so far shut down 12373 belt shops and conceded that many thousands more might exist. The Government is drawing up a plan to tackle belt shops more stringently this year.
Janakiram of RSP, Sadiq of Welfare Party, Narendra of Forward Bloc, D. Lakshmi and N. Saroja Devi of Lok Satta Party pledged their support for radical changes in the liquor policy.
Lok Satta Party Vice President D. V. V. S. Varma took part in the meeting.