Chaos continues outside liquor shops, police lathi charge not dampening spirit of buyers

Standalone wine shops in Kolkata witnessed flouting of social distancing rules, chaos and more, as spirit lovers turned out in scores to quench the 40-day-long thirst

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Kolkata: Since Monday, Kolkata woke up to a new type of chaos. Like several other cities, it too witnessed serpentinous queues of men defying the social distancing norm to get their hands alcohol of their choice.

The over-spilling lines of men in front of wine shops, made Kolkata police even use batons on Monday to manage many thirsty Kolkatans queuing up to buy alcohol after 40 long dry days after the government allowed standalone wine shops to open amidst the ongoing corona virus lockdown.

Huge lines and rush was seen in some alcohol shops in South Kolkata’s Hazra and Jadavpur area. With the huge crowd thronging the liquor shops, the owners pulled down the shutters to restrict further spread of the virus among the crown that was defying social distancing norm.

“We had to resort to lathi-charge as no one was maintaining the protocol. Hardly anyone wore masks or maintained social distancing. The state government  has passed the order of opening liquor shops keeping in mind the wishes of the common man but if the people don’t cooperate then it will be very difficult to curb this kind of crowd,” said a police officer posted in Hazra more.

Assistant General Secretary of Bar Association, Sushmita Mukherjee said unless the people of the state behave maturely the menace cannot be stopped. Liquor shops will be open for long hours every day therefore there is no need to create chaos that will be detrimental to both the society and individuals she explained.

“Except in containment areas, the government has passed order that the shops selling alcohol will remain open every day from 12 noon to 7 pm. People should understand the gravity of the situation and behave responsibly. Monday was the first day hopefully things will normalize in the days to come. Today shop owners were also seen cooperating with the police by keeping their shops closed to manage the unruly crowd,” said Mukherjee.

Asked about online delivery of alcohol, Mukherjee said that they have already requested the government but it will take time to put things in order.

Reading out the state government’s order, Mukherjee said that state government officials had instructed all shops owners to put revised price lists in front of their shops for the time being until they are printed on bottles.

The state government in a guideline said only standalone OFF shops selling foreign, IMFL, and country spirits will remain functional and not ‘ON’ shops.

It also stated that only those customers wearing masks will be sold liquor and social distancing norm has to be strictly followed. There should be a distance of 6 feet between two customers in the queue.

The authorities asked licensees to provide hand sanitizer to customers at the time of transaction.

Parashuram Dutta, a wine shop owner in North 24 Parganas stated that the police was forced to close several shops including his due to the pandemonium.

“Police had to come to maintain law and order in front of the shop and ultimately close several shops as there was complete chaos all over. The rush and the hullaballoo created by people were really unacceptable especially during the present situation. As per the latest order, shops will open at 12 noon from tomorrow and will remain open till 6 pm,” claimed Dutta.

Though both Bengal and the central government have encouraged the opening of standalone liquor shops, but neither government has given permits to outlets located in shopping complexes. Beer pubs, clubs, restaurant- cum-bars and hotel-restaurant-cum-bars will remain closed during the lockdown period.

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