Opening of 'selected' liquor vends trigger chaos in Jammu

TNN Bureau. Updated: 5/22/2020 1:17:29 PM Front Page

After 40 shops, 73 more to open today

JAMMU: Scene of chaos were seen in Jammu district on Thursday as huge number of customers lined up outside liquor shops—which reopened after a gap of nearly 50 days-- across the winter capital, primarily due to selective approach of Jammu and Kashmir Excise Department which allowed only few vends to resume operation, contrary to the consensus that the UT administration had arrived at.
The department allowed only “selected” wine shops to operate across Jammu region with six in Jammu district, leading to huge crowds of tipplers concentrating at these stores located at Bus Stand, Trikuta Nagar, Lower Muthi, Channi and Gandhi Nagar localities, with police forced to shut down few shops in wake of social distancing norms being defied, even as officials and public strongly objected to the opening of fewer shops.
In wake of the anguished reactions, the excise department on late Thursday ordered for 73 more liquor shops which would open on Friday in addition to 40 shops which were allowed to operate today across Jammu region. There are a total of 220 shops in the Union Territory.
Despite the 50% increase in the excise duty on liquor, a huge rush of purchasers piled up outside shops thus defying social distancing, owing to lesser number of shops open, and prompting the police to shut many shops earlier than the stipulated timing.
“People stood in line since morning but at many places where the wine shops were functional, chaos prevailed following which we were left with no other option than requesting the traders to down the shutter,” a senior police official said.
"The guidelines issued by the Chief Secretary were violated today because it was ordered that all shops in the orange zone should be allowed to function," J&K Wine Traders Association expressed.
They said that the Jammu District Administration and the top hierarchy of the administration was of opinion that opening of all wine shops would have helped in maintaining social distancing and lesser chaos but the department’s decision of opening only “selected” shops is not a welcome step and allegedly played a spoilsport in government’s effort of controlling COVID-19 spread.
"We were already of the opinion that government should not consider only stand alone shops to prevent this situation," they said, adding that with opening of shops on Thursday, the two-month long exercise of police, doctors and all others engaged in fighting corona pandemic, will become a futile exercise if the positive cases pop up with spread of contagious disease.
"The four-member working committee of the wine traders association had also gave in writing to the administration of steps to be taken by which social distancing can be maintained and adherence to the guidelines laid but it was an utter violation of the norms, after the situation broke out with the opening of the shops this morning," they added.
In the wake of these anguished reactions, Rajesh Kumar Shavan, Excise Commissioner, J&K has allowed 73 more shops to open from Friday.
“The department had identified around 40 shops shown as standalone across UT and they were opened today. Baring few places in Jammu, the transactions in almost all shops remained satisfactory with the support of local administration. These shops were identified on the basis of available space and location for ensuring social distancing,” he said.
73 shops which fall comparatively in partial/semi standalone category having adequate space for queue will open on Friday, he said.
While the shops falling in Malls and Shopping Complexes and busy Market places have been dropped to avoid any sort of inconvenience for the neighbouring shopkeepers, commuters to ensure social distancing, the department said that if the district administration deems it appropriate to open all shops irrespective of location, they can convey the same so that the lists are accordingly forwarded in future after stock checks.

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