Shimla: After the Supreme Court imposed a ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of a highway, that came into force on April 1, many owners started to shift shops near or inside residential areas and has thus drawn the ire of women in Himachal Pradesh.
In Shimla, Kullu, Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi districts, women groups have been protesting to demand closure or shifting of liquor shops from the residential areas.
Last week, women were seen protesting against the shifting of a liquor vend from Saloni village to Karer village in Barsar tehsil of Hamirpur district.
In Narkanda, 65 km from the state capital and Nurpur in Kangra district, women have been demanding liquor shops be shifted from residential areas.
“The consumption of liquor not only creates nuisance in the area but even ruins families,” Neena Sarkek, a protestor in Narkanda, told IANS.
She said the administration has assured that the liquor shop would be soon shifted. “If it fails to shift the liquor vend, the protest will begin again,” she added.
Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner KK Sharma said all the liquor shops have been allocated as per state government’s policy.
“If there is a genuine demand from the locals, we are shifting the liquor shops. Most of the ongoing protests are politically motivated,” Mr Sharma told IANS.
Interestingly, the Cheuni panchayat in Seraj assembly constituency, the remotest in Mandi district with a population over 1,600, took the lead in passing a resolution in February banning cigarettes, liquor and the playing of cards in its jurisdiction from the next fiscal.
Taking a cue, 15 nearby panchayats have also passed such resolutions.
“Despite passing the resolution by the panchayat, the government has allotted a liquor shop in Cheuni village and that within 25 meter radius of a school. This is a gross violation of the Supreme Court order,” local activist and journalist Hem Singh Thakur told IANS over the phone.
Gram Panchayat head Indira Devi said she has filed a public suit in the high court to get relief.
“Allowing a liquor shop to operate in the village besides the panchayat adopting a resolution unanimously is against the spirit of the panchayati raj institutions that empowers governance at the grassroots,” she said.
In Naina Devi area in Bilaspur district, known for the hilltop Naina Devi shrine, local authorities were forced to shift the liquor shop this week from the village following a fortnight-long clamour.
Earlier, Himachal Pradesh had 1,900 liquor shops.
Official records say there were 950 liquor shops and bars located within 500 metres from the highways that were facing closure with the Supreme Court’s order that came into force on April 1.
However, after downgrading 16 state highways of 1,308 km length nearly 250 liquor shops have been saved from closure.
(With Inputs From IANS)