Covid-19: Since April, 150,000 Mumbai residents got online liquor permits

Mumbaikars have obtained 150,955 online liquor permits since April 1 — shortly after the nationwide lockdown restrictions were enforced on March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak – according to the state excise department.

About 3,000 people got their alcoholic beverages delivered at home on a daily basis during this period.

On Monday, 3,709 consumers received home delivery of their alcohol beverages, said state excise officials.

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Liquor permits are required for home delivery of alcoholic beverages, which have been allowed by the Maharashtra government to avoid overcrowding at liquor stores amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The excise department has simplified the process of obtaining a liquor permit online in a bid to increase its revenue that had plunged drastically owing to the lockdown restrictions.

The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 mandates that anyone, who is above 25 years of age, wants to consume alcohol needs to possess a liquor permit. These permits are issued on health grounds as preservation and maintenance of health. However, the prohibition was abolished in the state in 1972 and a permit system was introduced to allow an individual to consume a stipulated amount of alcohol, which should not exceed more than 12 units.

Kantilal Umap, excise commissioner, Maharashtra, said the public has realised the advantages of obtaining a liquor permit. “A permit allows an individual not only to drink alcohol but also stock and transport liquor, ” said Umap.

“We urged the public to obtain liquor licences following the easing of lockdown restrictions and also simplified the process for getting hold of a permit. We have been flooded with applications since the simplification of the process,” he added.

The excise department received 156,085 applications, of which 150,955 were granted liquor permits between April 1 and September 21. The fee for a permit, which is valid for a year, is Rs 100. A lifetime validity costs Rs 1,000.

Arvind Miskin, president, Association of Progressive Retail Liquor Vendors, a body of wine shop owners, echoed Umap.

“A liquor permit allows an individual to stock up to 12 bottles of alcohol. People find it cheaper and convenient to obtain a permit,” said Miskin.

The Maharashtra Prohibition Act, 1949 stipulates that possession, consumption, or transportation of alcohol in the state without a permit is liable to a penalty up to Rs 50,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to five years.

There has been a growing demand in the state to scrap the liquor permit rule to consume alcohol. Hoteliers and patrons have dubbed the rule as a means of harassment by excise officials.

Liquor has been one of the major sources of revenue for the state government.

Maharashtra garnered Rs 15,434 crore during the last financial year as excise duty from the sale of liquor alone. The windfall gains prompted the state government to allow reopening of liquor stores from May 4 and also home delivery of alcoholic beverages, despite the contagion showing little signs of abating.

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