Liquor and hemp (bhang) shops in Madhya Pradesh will reopen tomorrow, excluding Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain falling under Red zone, after a gap of 40 days as per the relaxations allowed under the extended coronavirus lockdown, the government said today.
These shops will reopen in other red zones including Jabalpur, Dhar, Barwani, Khandwa, Dewas and Gwalior outside the urban limits of respective district headquarters, as per the official order.
In total, the liquor and hemp shops will reopen in 49 out of 52 districts in the state, it said. Liquor shops were closed on March 25 when the first phase of the lockdown came into force.
"Liquor and hemp shops won't re-open in Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain falling under the Red zone from Tuesday till next order."
"In other red zones of Jabalpur, Dhar, Barwani, Khandwa, Dewas and Gwalior, these shops will reopen outside the urban limits of respective district headquarters," it said.
These shops will also reopen in orange zone of Khargone, Raisen, Hoshangabad, Ratlam, Agar-Malwa, Mandsaur, Sagar, Shajpur, Chhindwara, Alirajpur, Tikamgarh, Shahdol, Sheopur, Dindori, Burhanpur, Harda, Betul, Vidisha, Morena and Rewa, barring containment areas, it said.
Liquor and hemp shops will also reopen in green zone.
"All the licensees (liquor contractors) have been asked to ensure that the standard operating procedure (SOP) to maintain a distance of about one metre between any two liquor purchasers is followed," the release said.
Local administration will decide the timing during which these shops will be allowed to function in respective districts, it said.
However, retail liquor contractors have opposed the order to reopen shops, fearing that they will lose business gradually.
"We met the state government officials to give suggestions regarding reopening of liquor shops at the pre-lunch session in Bhopal, but by that time the order paving the way for resumption of booze sale from tomorrow had been passed," a retail contractor said.
We are averse to reopening our liquor shops, as doing so will burn a hole in our pockets, he said.
When asked for the reasons behind the opposition to reopening of liquor shops, he said the sale of liquor will gradually decease in coming days as bars and other drinking vends remain closed.
"But we will be required to pay the license fee for our annual contract, which seems unsustainable under the current circumstances," he said.
He also said that maintaining social distancing at liquor shops will be tough due to shortage of manpower.
"Some of my colleagues have already made up their mind to approach the MP High Court against reopening of the shops," he said.
Madhya Pradesh Excise Commissioner Rajesh Bahuguna could not be contacted for reaction despite repeated calls.