A liquor outlet near Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi where it will be a dry weekend. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Bad news for binge boozers.
Ranchi will have to observe a “dry spell” from 5pm on June 21 to 7am on June 24 with the state election commission prohibiting alcohol use in the wake of Monday’s mayoral election.
During these 62 hours, sale, purchase and consumption of liquor at hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, shops or any other public place will be punishable offence. Storage of alcohol at any unlicensed premises will also invite punitive action. Offenders may have to serve a jail term of six months, face a fine of Rs 2,000 or both.
A notification to this effect was issued on Friday and state election commission secretary Umesh Prasad Singh said the step was being taken to ensure fair and peaceful polling.
The twin dry days are likely to deal a crore-heavy blow to the business in Ranchi.
“There are 152 alcohol stores across the capital. Out of them, foreign booze is sold at 115 and country liquor at 37. At these shops, approximately 8,000 litres of foreign liquor and 5,000 litres of country booze, together worth Rs 76 lakh, are sold every day,” said a trader, requesting anonymity.
Assistant excise commissioner Rakesh Kumar echoed the anticipation of businessmen. “There will be heavy losses during the dry spell, but that is a price to be paid for peaceful polling. Everyone has to co-operate with the district administration,” he said.
A salesman at a liquor outlet on Main Road was sceptical over the traditional poll panel measure. “Dry days do not improve the law and order situation. Tipplers will start stocking up anyway once the news is out. Those who drink, they will drink even on polling day; only businesses will suffer the blow,” he rued.
The salesman also pointed out that the ban would be effective only on those shops that have licences. “The administration has no control over those stores running without permit. It also cannot exercise the embargo on hadia, a local brew sold openly in different parts of the city,” he added.
Kumar refuted the arguments. “In India, most people avoid drinking at home and hence, dry days matter in terms of maintaining law and order. As far as sale of hadia is concerned, it is associated with indigenous food habits and the government does not interfere in the matter. However, those who sell the brew are being requested to abstain from business between June 21 and June 24.”