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Posted: Saturday, 18 August 2018 00:18

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Wine shops sealed in Mumbai for Excise Violations

Aug 18: Over 50 wine shops, supplying wines and liquor through online call centers in Mumbai and adjoining areas, were sealed last week with one person even arrested while supplying liquor last Tuesday when he came to deliver wine to one of the calling customers but the practice of home delivery has been going on for several years and most retailers feel that the government needs to establish a clear-cut policy in tune with the requirements of the modern Indian market

Based on the information provided by the arrested accused, another call center of the company located at Juhu was raided and the Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) kept ready to be supplied through home delivery was seized. However, the proprietor of the firm reportedly could not be apprehended, says the Report. Subsequently, the flying squad of the state Excise department inspected wine shops in Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigarh also.
The squad noticed that the wine shops were violating terms and conditions of FLl2 License issued by the Excise department for the storage and sale of IMFL. In Maharashtra, known as a ‘Prohibitive State’ wine and liquor sales are supposed to be strictly controlled by the Excise department and interestingly alcohol may be sold only to the permit holders which are a small fraction of the actual alcohol drinkers, according to a retailer who did not want his identity revealed.

A majority of the younger drinkers don’t even know that they need to get a permit from the department which is actually available online for an annual payment of Rs. 100 and a lifetime fee of Rs. 1,000. Wine shops (selling mostly liquor) are supposed to sell liquor only after verifying permits and are strictly prohibited home delivery of liquor.

Herein lies the rub. If a celebrity like a movie star or a sportsman or an industrialist wants to buy wine for his party or self, does he go himself to pick it up? Or get a member of his staff with a valid permit to pick up? In today’s world, service is a big factor in the successful running of any operation like this, says another retailer. The laws were made over 50 years ago when things like e-commerce and online did not even exist and are not a part of the excise policy and are hence vague. To expand business, some retailers have instituted centralized call centers where they take the orders and have the products home delivered.

It is an open secret that practically all retailers in Mumbai oblige the customers by home-delivering their requirements. This has been a practice for several years and the lawmakers need to look at it pragmatically, especially in the age of digitization so strongly promoted by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. Laws can be made to ensure that underage youth are not sold the liquor (in any case there is no guarantee that the practice is not carried out even now and can be curbed only through vigilance and strict action of summary cancellation of the license).

In fact, the home delivery service has been in existence for a number of years and gives a competitive edge to the retailer over others who simply wait at their counter for customers to walk in. Many women have started drinking wine and beer and hesitate to go to the shops to pick up the moniker of their choice and prefer home delivery. According to the grapevine, this retailer in trouble had access to the data base of the erstwhile Wine Society of India and the former members were regularly contacted for their requirements-clearly a pro-active move by the retailer to increase the business by any means, says another retailer who feels however that there is nothing wrong per se in having a centralized number which can be called by the customers.

The raids were reportedly carried out under the command of State Excise commissioner, Dr Ashwini Joshi.  It appears Maharashtra government is having a cake and eating it too. It has adopted a policy of discouraging liquor consumption through high pricing, thus collecting annual revenues of Rs. 20,000 crores according to the Report. The liquor is not banned throughout the state since the government otherwise stands to lose this revenue by way of taxes, according to the Report in UNI.

There is no plan to impose a state-wide prohibition in Maharashtra, where sale and manufacture of liquor is banned in a few districts, more specifically in Chandrapur District. Wardha, a place associated with Mahatma Gandhi, and Gadchiroli have also been declared 'dry' districts.

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