All liquor shops in the capital are closed since Monday when its retail changed hands from the state government to private hands, with money transfer procedures still underway. Excise commissioner Bhor Singh Yadav said business would be normal from Wednesday but trade insiders felt it would take three or four days more.
Explaining the process, a liquor retailer told this paper that Ranchi had 175 liquor shops, each of which paid Rs 22 lakh as licence fee to the excise department for one month. But, shops could not start selling liquor as owners could not deposit money to the bank account of Jharkhand State Beverages Corporation (JSBCL), which would supply them the stocks, on Monday, April 1, as banks were closed. On Tuesday, the process of transferring money was on. “Once the beverages corporation gets the money, it will start supply. I think business will be normal by Thursday or Friday. Weekend revellers have no worries,” he said.
Excise commissioner Yadav waved aside teething troubles. “From tomorrow (Wednesday) liquor will be available in the market and there will be no problem in future. We have a system of online money transfer, so we expect far less procedural delays,” he said.
People who drink regularly rued these “forced dry days”. “I and my friends enjoy our drinks every night at home. So this current situation is annoying. I depend on illegal liquor coming from Punjab and Haryana (which don’t pay duty to the state government). Getting liquor from many such godowns in the city is easy,” a resident from Ranchi said.
“Though the district administration takes action, it seems bootleggers are cleverer. It’s a prosperous supply chain and supply depends on the trust factor,” he added.
A licensed liquor retailer said the grey market flourished at their expense. He added that April was anyway not going to be lucky for their business. “Even when we get liquor supply from the beverages corporation, Navratra and Ramnavmi festivals will start and many big spenders will not drink during that period. Then, we will have elections, which will also adversely affect buying of liquor. Though the government has given back liquor retail to private operators, business will be dull for the first one-and-a-half months.”
The booze business changing hands has affected another section of people — over 100 liquor salesmen who worked on contract at the 56 government-run shops are now out of jobs. “Government liquor shops got closed after March 31. We are jobless and hoping the private players hire us,” said one.