Jaipur, Sept. 23: Trouble is brewing for Rajasthan’s babu tipplers but their long-suffering wives aren’t getting all too excited yet.
From now on, half the salary of any state government employee who is a habitual drinker will go directly to his or her spouse’s account. The catch is, the spouse has to complain officially and an inquiry has to establish that the employee is a tippler.
Congress chief minister Ashok Gehlot, a teetotaller and known as “Marwar ka Gandhi”, got the Rajasthan Civil Services (Conduct Rules), 1971, amended to pass this order, which was sent to government departments and collectors last week.
Most officials say the order would be difficult to implement because employees might doctor the inquiry. The rule will apply only if the inquiry establishes the employee is a habitual drinker and that this is hampering his family life.
However, the officials expect the new rule to make some of the heavy drinkers cautious.
“The rule is welcome but how much of it would be actually enforceable is doubtful,” said Suman Sharma, wife of a state government employee.
“Rajasthan’s people are conservative. Wives may think twice before lodging complaints against their husbands even if they create a nuisance after their drinking binges at home. It would also be some sort of an embarrassment to let the office know about your husband’s boozing habits.”
Alka Srinath, the wife of another state government employee, cited another possible deterrent for a wife: if she complains, it would anger her husband and bring her “more pain at home”. “And what if the husband fixes the inquiry? The rule will only make the drinkers more alert and restrained,” she said.
A five-member government panel amended the service rules to pave the way for the order after a former Congress MLA, Gursharan Singh Chhabra, went on a 25-day fast last month demanding a ban on liquor sale in the state.
Gehlot persuaded Chhabra to break his fast by promising to enforce the half-salary-to-spouse rule.
The move may have a subtext in the political rivalry between the Congress and the BJP, who are set to square off in the upcoming state elections this winter.
The state Congress has been accusing the erstwhile BJP government of Vasundhara Raje of endorsing the “liquor culture”, resulting in the mushrooming of liquor shops across the state.
After Gehlot became chief minister for a second time in 2008, he ensured that all liquor shops closed after 8pm, a move that lowered the sale and consumption of liquor.
He had at that time taken a dig at his predecessor Raje, saying: “We don’t want to promote the liquor culture.”
During BJP rule, the state had 4,500 Indian-made foreign liquor shops and 7,000 country liquor outlets. Gehlot has reduced the total to around 8,500 by closing down vends located near schools and temples, and raised bar licence fees,
Yet, last year, the state’s new excise policy imposed a penalty on liquor shops that had failed to register a 20 per cent rise in sales over the previous year.
Notices were issued to about 2,000 shop owners to deposit the penalty, which was 10 per cent of the “vend fee”.
An executive of a liquor company, who did not want to be named, said the industry resented the penalty but could do nothing because there is no liquor association in the state.
The move earned the state government a record excise revenue despite the fall in the number of liquor outlets.