The central government on Wednesday banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco during the next phase of the lockdown which is scheduled to continue till 3 May. The guidelines come as some states were mulling opening liquor stores which have a major contribution to the state economy.

According to a fresh set of guidelines issues by the union home ministry, the ban will apply on the sale of liquor, gutka and tobacco. The national directives shall be enforced by the district magistrate through fines and penal action under the Disaster Management Act 2005. The guidelines were announced with some restrictions which will be eased for areas which are not hotspots. The restrictions come under the national directives for the management of covid-19. The restrictions for public spaces also includes a ban on spitting in public and the organisation of gatherings.

“There should be strict ban on sale of liquor, gutka, tobacco etc and spitting should be strictly prohibited,” the guidelines said.

In the first phase of the lockdown, states had refrained from operating liquor stores to ensure social distancing norms are followed. Ahead of the extension, states like Assam had allowed the sale of alcohol. States like Meghalaya had set up provision to ensure home delivery of alcohol so that social distancing norms are not violated. The liquor industry contributes about 2.5 trillion a year to state governments by way of excise duty and in some states as value added tax, said an industry executive. Bulk of their tax outgo goes to state governments as liquor is a state subject. The central government’s indirect taxation of the industry is mostly limited to customs duty on import of concentrate. The executive, who did not wish to be named, said that distilleries are now producing sanitisers but continuing the ban on sale of liquor would result in labourers returning to their home states and it would make things difficult for the distilleries to commence production when the lockdown is lifted.

“Excise duty on liquor is among the major revenue streams to state governments similar to GST on goods and services and excise duty on petrol and diesel,” said the executive. The states that depend heavily on liquor for tax revenue are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, he said. Addressing the nation on Tuesday, PM Modi had announced that the lockdown will be extended to 3 May. However, he added that areas that do not have hotspots will be allowed certain restrictions. The first phase of the three week lockdown was due to end on Wednesday.

News Source: Livemint


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