Gujarat halts situation, renewal of well being liquor permits

GANDHINAGAR: After raising sold through almost threefold in the state budget, the government is now mulling a blanket ban on issuing and renewals of old health permits.
On March 20, the director of prohibition issued a departmental order to district superintendents of prohibition and ordered that the process of issuing and renewing health permits be immediately suspended.

M S Dagur, additional chief secretary (Home), who chaired the review meeting of the prohibition department and directed it to issue a departmental order for a temporary ban on issuance and renewal of permits, said, “This directive has been issued for the time being only. The government received several complaints about the system of issuing health liquor permits. There is no uniform policy or criteria for health liquor permits. All district health boards and doctors follow different criteria, so in consultation with the state health and family welfare department we have decided to come out with a uniform policy.”

“In some districts, there are very few permits issued while many districts have thousands. So we decided to review all such permits. A new policy will be finalized by the government soon and new permits will be issued based on uniform criteria. Old permits will also be renewed only if they fulfil the new policy criteria. The government is firm about stopping misuse of health permits,” Dagur added.

There are currently 58 permit shops in Gujarat. A government committee with representation from the tourism, prohibition, home and other departments will soon decide on licences to 19 more , to augment tourism. The decision was pending due to the election code of conduct and government wanted to avoid a controversy as liquor is a sensitive subject. Hotels sells liquor to guests from outside Gujarat and to health permit holders from within the state.

The number of liquor shops have doubled from 26 to 58. In January 2014, there were only 26 liquor shops. The state government is likely to give more licenses to new hotels.

In 2015-16 and 2016-17, the Gujarat government got Rs 32.50 crore and Rs 38.90 crore as excise duty and other charges on liquor sold at permit shops. This figure is expected to cross Rs 45 crore in 2017-18.

Liquor permit holders expressed shock. “The abrupt suspension of liquor permits can pose problems for holders, as they are used to managing their diseases especially unstable angina, labile hypertension and insomnia with medication and liquor. Putting a stop on the issue of permits is not a solution to the alleged problem of people misusing health grounds to get liquor permits,” said Dr Vijay Bhatia, a plastic surgeon and a heart patient, who has had a health permit for five years now.

Bhadresh Shethiya, a 49-year-old permit holder, said, “The government cannot take such arbitrary decisions because medical practitioners are advising patients to do this. Those in the 40-50 years age-group are supposed to get permits renewed every two years. Thankfully mine was renewed last year but it is a time-consuming process. Most often renewal of a permit takes about two months.”

Hoteliers who have permit liquor shops on their premises, on the other hand, say that majority of their revenue typically comes from health permit holders. “85% to 90% of revenue at a permit shop comes from health permit holders, as they buy liquor regularly. As permits are issued on health grounds the government must re-verify documents instead of randomly imposing such a blanket ban.”

Get latest news & live updates on the go on your pc with . Download The for your device. in English and other languages.