Andhra Pradesh auctions liquor shop licenses amid protests

June 17th, 2008 - 8:22 am ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, June 17 (IANS) Amid strong protests by women’s organisations and opposition parties, tenders were opened Monday for licenses to run hundreds of wine shops across Andhra Pradesh. Breaking all records, the license for one wine shop in the state capital was sold for over Rs.20 million while in majority of the towns the businessmen bagged the licenses for over Rs.10 million.

Cashing in on the information technology and real estate boom, businessmen filed tenders for record sum in most parts of Hyderabad, especially in Hitec City, the IT district.

More than 60,000 people filed tenders for the 6,800 retail liquor shops in the state as liquor business booms in the state.

The state government hopes to increase its revenues from liquor sales by 25 percent. In a state, which was once a model with total prohibition, liquor is a major source of revenue for the public exchequer.

The revenues from liquor are expected to cross Rs.100 billion during the current financial year against Rs.84.50 billion last year.

The license fee for liquor shops has been increased by 15 percent this year. Meanwhile, the government Monday evening also announced a hike in license fee for bar shops.

Andra Pradesh’s consumption of three million cases (of 9 litre each) every month is among the highest in the country.

The liquor sales jumped by 20 to 30 percent every year ever since the total prohibition imposed by then chief minister N.T. Rama Rao in 1994 was lifted by his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu three year later.

The women’s organizations and some opposition parties have alleged that the Congress government was encouraging consumption of liquor as hundreds of new belt shops (small liquor shops) have come up across the state especially on national and state highways.

Hundreds of activists of the main opposition the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Lok Satta and women’s organizations staged protests in different parts of the state Monday.

Progressive Women’s Organisation leader Sandhya and TDP women’s wing chief and film actress Roja led separate protests at the office of excise department in the state capital.

Roja alleged that the government was not bothered that the wine was destroying thousands of families and it was only keen to make money.

Lok Satta, the party launched by former bureaucrat Jaiprakash Narayan, claimed that there are around 150,000 belt shops in the state.

The police arrested the protesters at Hyderabad and in other towns while excise authorities completed the tender process.

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