May 13: Whether it is the persistent demand from consumers, producers and importers of alcoholic products or more likely to fill the empty coffers of the treasury with the lucrative taxes collected from the sale of alcohol, the opposition run government in Maharashtra of Uddhav Thackeray has made a quick U-turn after banning the Sale on May 5 within 2 days, and pragmatically re-opened Sales with certain conditions, allowing also home delivery, writes Subhash Arora
The Principal Secretary- Excise for the Government of Maharashtra, issued an Order on 11 May, 2020 to the Home Department, Mantralaya, authorising the sale and delivery of foreign liquor to the Licensed Holders to the Permit Holders within Maharashtra during the specified Office Order.
The requisite order from the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) is awaited and is expected within a day or two according to our reliable sources. It might be mentioned that monitoring the logistics is also done by BMC which had created a lot of hullabaloo with social distancing norms thrown to the winds and BMC cancelling its permission to sell, 2 days after Maharashtra allowed the sale on May 4.
Reportedly, there has been a change in the Municipal Commissioner of BMC since and the new Commissioner is busy drawing up details for Sales as well as home delivery and will most likely announce by Wednesday to start the sale of wine and liquor in a much more organised manner from Thursday, May 14 and help the State collect the much needed taxes as well.
Sonal Holland MW who handles the Sales of wine and beer at the Foodhall, was still awaiting clarification. Madhulika Bhattacharya who looks after the similar sales for the Nature’s Basket stores at various location was also awaiting details though was fairly confident that the sales would be allowed within a couple of days. These two entities had managed the sales with strict social distancing as reported earlier. This worked wonderfully well the first 2 days of opening up and the customers were very appreciative of the social distancing norms.
Satyam Savla, Director of Juben Wines, a standalone wine, beer and liquor store seemed to be well-informed and on his toes getting ready for the Alcohol Sales 2.0. He has already geared up for deliveries and will be ready the moment the order is received from the Commissioner.
There will be 3 streams of sale this time, he feels. First is the newly implemented home delivery. Customer places the order (pre-order) and preferably pays in advance through credit card. One boy of the delivery team takes the order and leaves the products at the gate and informing the customer on phone, making it contactless. Juben would charge Rs. 50 per delivery which will only cover his cost and is very reasonable unless there is a different Order from the Commissioner.
In second scenario, the customer calls up the shop and places the order and when the package is ready to be picked up, he is informed on phone to come to the shop. He pays up by cash/card and a help keeps the parcel in the car and he can leave within a few minutes.
The third stream is what he and surely, stores like Foodhall and Nature’s Basket with no big lines will follow and will ensure this time there are no big lines. The customers stand in circles outside, allowing a maximum of 2 customers per store and pay and leave. Of course, everyone at the store will wear a mask and gloves and use sanitisers frequently as would be the customers.
Juben Wines which wore the brunt of the customers that rushed to his shop in the afternoon on 4-5 May is better prepared this time. There will be a token system and they will have customers stand in these circles maintaining social distancing. They would be generally the liquor customers buying small bottle or two for their daily needs. They would get token for at most about 100 people an hour and will stand within circles and wearing mask. There will be a separate line and they must follow the norms.
He is quite stocked up on beer and liquor, due to the unprecedented demand, he was low on inventory and ordered supplies on 5 May. He plans to stock up on wines; he carries a wide range of wines-from Indian labels like Sula, Grover and Charosa and several imported wines for which he has a regular clientele.
An interesting and rather incomprehensible side of alcohol sales is that Mumbai has had quasi Prohibition for decades and one needs a Permit to buy or store any liquor. Whereas it is a practice not even all the sellers are aware about, this time for home deliveries a Permit costing Rs. 5 will have to be issued for all home deliveries.
Post Corona lifestyle
It looks like Mumbai will be back on tracks with this system. With the changes in living style expected much after Corona crisis is over, it appears, home delivery would become more of a norm and those who can offer more efficient service like Zomato or Swiggy stand to gain higher market share. This will be a good experiment for the Maharashtra government to peruse. Punjab and Chhattisgarh have already started home delivery and Delhi which has already started the token system is reportedly considering it. For now, Savla totally comprehends the importance of efficient delivery system and is hiring already to get the efficient deliveries as a USP.
There has been no mention of additional taxes but a Corona Cess of 20-30% would be quite acceptable to the stores and customers and is a good, if temporary, measure. As it is, social media is full of jokes about the sharaabis helping during the economic crisis and a bit more would not hurt them. But, the government should desist from the stifling 70% additional tax imposed in Delhi which is stifling for wine drinkers.
For earlier article please click Supreme Court suggests Home Delivery of Liquor during Covid Pandemic
Home Delivery Notification
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