Massive crowd thronged liquor shops as owners performed special prayers at several places after liquor shops reopened in Telangana on Wednesday after over a month due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Customers rushed to shops and formed long, serpentine queues even before the shutters went up as the government allowed the sale of liquor at more than 2,000 shops across the state with a 16 percent hike in prices. The government also issued guidelines to be followedbat the shops, including strict adherence to social distancing and mandatory use of face masks.
Shops in coronavirus containment zones will, however, remain shut.
Telangana is the latest to join the list of states, including neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which have allowed the sale of liquor which was out of bounds during the first two phases of the lockdown.
"I was waiting for this day... I would not mind the price hike. This time I will get sufficient stocks," a buyer said at one of the shops in Hyderabad.
People were seen dancing outside some shops and hailing Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who on Tuesday night allowed liquor shops to reopen.
As the shops opened, owners performed special prayers with flowers, coconuts, incense sticks and offered "Aarti" - the lighting of traditional lamp and camphor - in front of the stores at several places, before commencing business.
At several place people were seen waiting from as early as 6 am, with bags in hand, waiting for the outlets to open.
Women and elderly people were also seen standing in queues near the liquor shops.
State Excise Minister Srinivas Goud said he visited several outlets in Hyderabad and said all of them followed the government guidelines such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distances, among others.
There are 17 liquor depots owned by Telangana Beverages Corporation and no retail outlet has yet placed order for fresh stocks, he said, adding, owners are selling whatever stocks they already had before the lockdown was announced.
Defending the reopening of wine shops, the minister said Telangana shares over 2,500 km long border with other states and since all of them have resumed liquor sales the state government also took the decision to allow sales to control any illegal and illicit liquor trade.
The chief minister had on Tuesday announced that barring 15 liquor outlets located in various containment zones in the state, the remaining over 2,200 shops will be open for business from 10 am to 6 pm beginning Wednesday. However, bars and pubs will remain shut.
Police personnel were deployed at most of the outlets to avoid untoward incidents and ensure law and order.
Most of the liquor vendors drew circles with chalk outside the shops to ensure customers observe social distancing rules.
At some stores, customers even placed their footwear, bags and other articles inside the circles as a sort of 'proxy' for them while they stayed a little distance away awaiting their turn.
The state government has warned that licenses of shops will be cancelled if social distancing norms were violated by sellers and buyers.