The Andhra Pradesh Government has introduced a new excise policy and taken a decision to run liquor outlets on its own in a gradual, phased introduction of total prohibition in the State.

Prohibition is one of the election promises of the YSR Congress, which wanted the move to progress in three or four phases before culminating in total ban liquor by the fifth year. “Liquor will be available only in five-star hotels in the State,” Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy had said during the election campaign earlier this year.

From October 1, the Andhra Pradesh Beverages Corporation will run liquor outlets both in urban and rural areas. As a first step to reduce the consumption of alcohol in the State, private individuals or contractors running the shops will have to quit the field by the end of September. The government will reduce the number of shops (roughly 4,300 private shops at present) to 3,500 government outlets.

Minimum qualification

Each urban shop will have five workers, including a supervisor, while in rural areas, four will man each outlet. They will be employed through the outsourcing route. The minimum qualification for a salesman is Intermediate (Plus-Two), while the supervisor needs to be a graduate. The shops will be open from 10 am to 9 pm and will be under CCTV surveillance. District-level committees headed by the joint collectors will select the staff and supervisors.

The government also plans to increase the rates of liquor to discourage consumption. There would be display boards in Telugu and English at each shop, clearly stating the prices.

At present, each of the 4,300-odd private liquor shops employs roughly 5-8 staff and most of them do not have the requisite educational qualifications (either Intermediate or degree) and, therefore, they will lose their livelihood.

The new excise policy has come in for much criticism, as was with the many other decisions of the new government. “The objective of the government is laudable. But its sincerity is questionable. The government has in its budget increased the projected excise income by ₹2,000 crore or so for the current year. How does the State government plan to decrease liquor consumption and increase excise revenue?” Congress leader Tulasi Reddy wondered.

The ruling YSR Congress leaders argued that higher excise revenue would be possible with increased rates even while reducing liquor consumption in the State.

The opposition TDP leaders termed the new policy impractical and difficult to implement. Earlier, during 1993, total prohibition was imposed by TDP leader, the late NT Rama Rao, but it proved to be a failure.

Experts say the State government should run a sensitisation and awareness campaign on the issue and set up de-addiction centres to reduce alcohol consumption. Higher rates would not deter those addicted to alcohol, they added.