Liquor shops reopened across the country in the non-containment zones after 40 days from Monday with people queuing up in large numbers, giving social distancing norms a toss at some places. There were long queues in several cities including Delhi, Noida, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai and Jaipur. The Ministry of Home Affairs had extended the 40-day nationwide lockdown from Monday for two more weeks and allowed liquor and tobacco shops to open in the green and orange zones.
In Delhi, many government-run liquor shops had to be shut as people, who gathered outside the outlets, did not follow social distancing norms, while in some cases police had to use mild force to disperse the unruly crowd.
According to an official, about 150 government-run liquor shops have been allowed to open from 9 am to 6.30 pm in the national capital in accordance with the latest lockdown relaxations given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Large number of people made a beeline in Uttar Pradesh that reopened 26,000 liquor stores, while Rajasthan had to close most of the shops where social distancing norms were not being followed. As per the government notification, shops selling liquor have to ensure social distancing and also make sure that not more than five people are present at one time at the shop.
Liquor shops across Noida and Greater Noida witnessed scores of customers queuing up right from 10 am, as the sale of liquor resumed for the first time since the nationwide lockdown came into force on March 25. In an official order on Sunday, the Gautam Buddh Nagar administration allowed the opening of retail and wholesale licensed liquor stores from May 4 between 10 am and 7 pm with certain restrictions. There were long queues at Sector 94 in Noida as people waited for hours in hope to get alcohol.
Only stores outside hotspots and containment zones have been allowed to resume sales, while people have been prohibited to sit and consume alcohol at model shops and country bars, District Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar Suhas LY stated in the order.
"Not more than five customers are allowed at any liquor store at any given point of time and they too have to observe a gap of at least two years between them. Five circles should be marked outside the shop at a distance of six feet where people can queue up, one person in a circle," the order stated.
In Andhra Pradesh's Guntur, scenes were no different. People made a beeline for fetching a bottle of liquor as shops opened for the first time post lockdown. More than a kilometre-long line was seen in Guntur with people hardly worrying about social distancing guidelines.
Rajasthan also witnessed a similar situation with some people struggling to carry liquor bottles, while a few followed the social distancing norms and stood in circles marked in front of shops and on roads. Policemen were also deployed near the shops to ensure that liquor stores are not crowded. In Jaipur, long lines were witnessed since morning.
Meanwhile, complaints were made to the excise department in Rajasthan that liquor shops are overcrowded and no social distancing norm was being followed, prompting the department to order closure of all such shops till proper arrangement sare made.
"There were complaints that shops were overcrowded so the shops were closed and the licensees were asked to make proper arrangements for effective social distancing," district excise officer Sunil Bhati said.
Chaotic scenes outside liquor stores in some parts of Uttar Pradesh were witnessed, while elsewhere serpentine queues were seen long before the outlets opened.
Principal Secretary, Excise, Sanjay Bhoosreddy along with officials of the department inspected liquor shops in various parts of Lucknow, which include Mahanagar, Aliganj, Indiranagar, and instructed all the shopkeepers to ensure that social distancing is strictly adhered to and that sanitisers are made available.
"Orders have been issued to allow 26,000 liquor shops in the state to open. Liquor shops have opened in most districts of the state, while adhering to the rules and regulations of social distancing. Sale of liquor is going on, while maintaining cleanliness aroundshops. There is an estimate that on the first day itself, the government is likely to earn Rs 100 crore as revenue," Bhoosreddy told PTI.
In Chandigarh, the city administration allowed reopening of all shops in the non-containment zone areas. It had announced reopening of shops in the internal sector markets from 10 am till 6 pm on an odd-even formula in the non-containment zones.
People, wearing masks, gathered in large numbers in Himachal Pradesh without maintaining social distancing norms to buy liquor at the stretch between CTO and Scandal Point.
With just one active coronavirus case in Himachal Pradesh currently, most areas of the state has been designated green zone. Kangra is one of the districts which still come under orange zone.
Long queues were seen outside liquor outlets in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, a day after the state government said shops of non-essential items, including liquor, will be allowed to open in non-containment zones, but to the dismay of the customers, they remained shut.
A senior state government official said no order has been issued to keep these liquor shops closed. Tipplers queued up outside liquor shops in Dahisar, Matunga, Santacruz, Malwani, Kandivali and other places since early hours of Monday, but found the outlets closed. In some areas, police announced that the liquor shops will not open on Monday and asked people to go back home.
Select liquor shops in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka pulled up shutters, with tipplers thronging them in huge numbers at many places.
In Goa, people observed social distancing rules while standing in queues outside these shops.
(PTI and agencies)