NEW DELHI: Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia today said the Delhi government has no plan to ban liquor in the city even as he maintained that the AAP dispensation does not want to run the city administration with money collected from sale of alcohol in the national.
The Deputy Chief Minister, who was responding to a question of AAP MLA Pankaj Pushkar from Timarpur in the Assembly, accused the Opposition of spreading “misleading” figures on the number of liquor shops in the city to “deceive” the public.
Sisodia’s statement comes at a time when there is a controversy over rise in liquor shops in Delhi. The Deputy CM said in many areas, liquor vends have been closed after complaint from public and soon Mohalla Sabhas will take a call on existence of liquor shops.
“There is an attempt to create an environment that we are the liquor mafia. We ended corruption in distribution of licence for liquor vends and that is why we are being targeted. We have shifted liquor shops to mall as they have arrangement to deal with anti-social elements,” he said.
Sisodia claimed only six retail vends have come up in the city and the number of other licenced establishments serving alcohol has actually gone down since the AAP assumed office.
“I fail to understand how six new retail shops have contributed towards doubling the revenue collection? A section is deliberately misleading and trying to create a wrong perception. It is almost like we have turned into liquor mafia but no one is noticing how many Ponty Chadhas we have put out of business,” he said.
“Delhi will become the first place where locals will decide the location of liquor vends. We have ended the inspector raj and corruption in excise department. Now, an officer’s job is to stop corruption and don’t think about liquor vends.
“Earlier, politicians or their relatives used to own liquor shops, now in our government no MLA supports opening of vend in his or her area,” Sisodia said.
The government had recently notified 2,972 mohalla sabhas where registered voters will be able to take a call through voting on basic or urgent development works and monitor progress. There are over 460 liquor shops in residential neighbourhoods.
The development comes amid a campaign by the Swaraj Abhiyan, led by former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, against “proliferation” of liquor vends in the city. Quoting an RTI reply from Delhi government’s excise department, the group has claimed that 58 liquor vends had come up in the city since last February.
Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly and BJP member Vijender Gupta, who staged a walkout with his party MLA Jagdish Pradhan before Sisodia’s speech, read out reports to drive home the point that the government was encouraging “microbreweries and nightlife”.
Under the new excise policy announced by the AAP dispensation, no new liquor store, except in malls, will be allowed in Delhi in the current financial year. It has also empowered the mohalla sabhas to decide on whether to shut down the existing ones.
“The mohalla sabhas have not yet been notified and the government says that these bodies have been empowered to take decisions in this regard. The government is misleading the people,” Gupta said.
Sisodia said the policy on microbreweries was not new. “Microbreweries exist in abundance in Gurgaon where you have the government of ‘gaurakshaks’,” he said.
Following Gupta’s walkout, Delhi Culture Minister Kapil Mishra took a dig at him. “I don’t know why he (Gupta) left. I did not see any liquor vend open nearby.”
Without naming Yadav or Bhushan, Mishra urged them to stop the “politics of imitation”. He also pledged to hold a ‘mohalla sabha’ in his constituency on Sunday and implement its decision the very next day.
Referring to the prohibition models in states like Bihar, Sisodia said the AAP government was not against bans but underlined the need for a thorough study before resorting to any such move.
“We don’t want to run Delhi using the revenue earned from liquor. We are not against any ban either but it has to be across the country. Right now our focus is on ensuring that the revenue earned is not syphoned like before,” he said.
Taking a stand against prohibition, AAP MLA Madanlal claimed that hundreds have lost lives in Bihar and Gujarat, which are dry states. “Moreover we don’t have the police under our control so we should not go for ban in such a situation.”