The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday issued orders on the maximum quantity of liquor that a person can possess without a permit or licence. Limiting the maximum quantity to 3 bottles of liquor and 6 bottles of beer, the order comes into effect from Wednesday.
According to the order issued by the state Excise Department, individuals can only have up to 3 bottles of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor), or Foreign Liquor, and up to 6 bottles of beer (650 ml each), without a permit. Earlier, the maximum permissible quantities had been fixed at 6 bottles of liquor and 12 bottles of beer. The allowed quantities of denatured /methylated spirit (3 litres) and toddy (2 litres) remains the same.
Nageshwar Rao, OSD (officer on special duty) at Andhra Pradesh State Beverages Corporation Ltd, explained that the limit applies to both purchase and possession. “If a person buys 3 bottles of liquor and takes them home, and consumes two of them and has one remaining, the next time they purchase liquor, they must only get 2 more bottles. At any point in time, they can only be in possession of 3 bottles of liquor in total,” he said.
He added that individuals can obtain an event permit from the excise department if they wish to host a party, in which case they would have to specify the time period of the event and would be allowed to hold excess number of liquor bottles only up to that period.
However, there seems to be no clear mechanism in place to track the purchase and possession of liquor by individuals. Even the previously existing limits of 6 bottles of liquor and 12 bottles of beer, have remained on paper, according to a liquor store owner in Vijayawada. “Hundreds of people visit the shop every day. We can’t keep track of who is returning and purchasing more bottles, or whether someone is purchasing as an individual or for a group. There’s no real supervision on whether we are selling 6 or 12 bottles of beer or more than that,” he said.
According to Nageshwar Rao, individuals who exceed the limit are liable for prosecution under excise laws. “Stores are not allowed to make sales over the prescribed limit. If a person happens to procure more number of bottles, say by visiting multiple stores, they will be doing so at their own risk,” he says, adding that measures for tracking purchases through a software application will be implemented in the future.
V Lakshmana Reddy, president of Jana Chaitanya Vedika — a civil society group working on the issue of prohibition, says that although there are problems in implementation, together with other measures taken by the state government, reducing the limit could have a positive impact. “Earlier, it was possible to procure 6 to 12 bottles of alcohol and resell them without a licence. Hopefully, the reduction on the cap can control such practices,” he said.
He also added that measures like linking one’s Aadhaar to liquor purchase may be implemented in the future, in order to track sales.
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had promised total prohibition in the state during his election campaign. After coming to power in May, he announced that prohibition will be implemented in a phased manner. In June, the state government cracked the whip on illegal outlets or ‘belt shops’ as a first step towards imposition of total prohibition in the state. In the same month, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly also passed a bill to enable the government to take over the liquor business.
In August, the state government announced the allocation of Rs 500 crore for setting up of de-addiction centres and for implementation of prohibition. Jagan also directed officials to include lessons on ill-effects of liquor in school textbooks.
In September, the state prohibition and excise department opened 503 liquor shops as part of the state’s new excise policy of liquor sales, expected to come into effect in the coming months. Under the policy, the state would take control of all existing liquor shops in the state in stages and phase them out over the next four years.
Once the policy comes into effect, all liquor shops in the state will be run by the Andhra Pradesh State Beverages Corporation Limited (APSBCL). The state will outsource the operations of these liquor shops and will recruit three persons for each shop.