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Hic hic hooray! Covid-19 changing the way Indians get booze

Hic hic hooray! Covid-19 changing the way Indians get booze

The Covid-19 pandemic is set to change the way alcohol is sold in India. The sector is undergoing unprecedented changes, hopefully bringing it out of the historical legacy of imperial rule and freedom struggle.

The nation which had a tradition of easy availability of som rasa (the alcoholic beverage of Hindu gods) had been unable to change the archaic excise laws that were imposed on it by its imperial masters, the British. The burden of ridiculous laws, like the one imposed on the young in the national capital wherein they cannot buy or drink liquor till the age of 25 years, is an affront to individual liberty.

The past several weeks of lockdown have seriously jeopardized the business sector, among them that of alcohol. However, the pandemic could indeed turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the sector and usher in much needed reforms.

Several states in the country have begun an experiment with online booking and home delivery of alcohol. A liberal dream come true in a country still burdened with sanctimony.

Leading the pack in the introduction of liberalized excise regime is Chhattisgarh, which was the first to introduce a new rule for the sale of liquor. Within days Punjab, West Bengal, and Delhi have followed suit. Other state governments too now look set to introduce this changed excise regime aimed at helping people secure their favorite tipple.

The home delivery of booze is an unthinkable step in a country that has seen excise departments sharing their revenue with prohibition departments for discouraging drinking alcohol.

The move has come as a much-needed relief for the industry which has been reeling under threats of prohibition and tighter controls as political class in various states tries to play to the galleries.

While Gujarat and Bihar are under prohibition, several others like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been threatening to impose additional restrictions on availability of booze amid pressure by several groups.

Excessive control and prohibition of alcohol has often led to tragedies, with news of deaths due to hooch or illicit liquor. The only way forward for a liberal democracy is to implement laws that are logical and change with the times. It is time that a liberal excise regime was implemented throughout the nation and outdated laws were trashed..