The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fiery protest over off-shops
- Liquor law against local ethos, say effigy-burning Trinamul MLAs

Parliament is in camera, not the Assembly. And if Tuesday’s ruckus is any indication, one wonders what the legislators must be doing every day in the House.

Unable to forgive the government for operating an excise policy that has made it possible to open more off-shops in the city without an endorsement from the local MLAs and councillors, Saugata Roy and several other Trinamul Congress legislators on Tuesday took their campaign to an unimaginable length.

Roy and his partymen burnt large caricatures of finance minister Asim Dasgupta, whom they held responsible for the new policy designed to maximise the fetchings from a time-honoured revenue stream for governments everywhere. Holding aloft the posters and placards in flames at the entrance to the main lobby, the Trinamul MLAs shouted: “Down with the new policy”, “Save our great land from the invasion of liquor shops”.

During the morning session, the group of Trinamul MLAs, led by Roy, assembled in the lobby and started chanting slogans against the government. They demanded withdrawal of the new liquor policy and insisted that more restrictions be imposed in issuing liquor licences.

After about 10 minutes, the MLAs came out of the lobby, assembled at the entrance and again raised anti-government slogans. Then, they burnt the caricatures. The guards on duty were taken by surprise, but chose to stay aloof.

Later, Roy said the government decision to issue licences to a large number of liquor shops went against the grain of Bengal. Besides, many of the shops were coming up near schools.

Earlier, during the winter session, a group of Trinamul supporters and even the Forward Bloc youth wing demonstrated in front of the Assembly gate to protest the liquor licences.

By the new policy, the excise department will issue one liquor licence per 12,000 population in the city and one shop per 18,000 population in other areas. A total of 5,000 liquor shops will get a licence under the new policy.

“As 2,000 liquor shops already exist, we shall issue 3,000 new licences. There is no question of liquor shops mushrooming. Licences will be issued strictly on the basis of requirement and by lottery. No shop will be allowed within 300 m of any educational institution or place of worship,’’ said excise commissioner Satish Tewari. He said the revenue from excise has reached Rs 567 crore this year and the target for the next financial year was Rs 630 crore. The new licences will boost the income to Rs 800 crore.

According to the new policy, officials from the excise department explained, there is no role for any people’s representative in opening a liquor shop. Earlier, a no-objection certificate was required from them.

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