The Andhra Pradesh government made liquor sales worth Rs 40 crore on the very first day that liquor outlets were reopened after 40 days of lockdown. Liquor stores in the state saw serpentine queues and huge crowds on Monday, violating physical distance norms in many cases. Shops were allowed to open up everywhere except in containment clusters.
The liquor outlets were opened up as part of implementing the relaxed guidelines on lockdown. Of the total 3,468 retail liquor outlets run by the state-owned AP State Beverages Corporation Limited, 2,345 were opened in various districts following easing of lockdown restrictions by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Even in the coronavirus hotspot districts like Kurnool, Guntur and Krishna, a good number of shops were reopened as hundreds of people lined up to purchase liquor, despite the government hiking the rates by 25 per cent.
Official sources told PTI that the Rs 40 crore earned was the single largest revenue accrued to the state government in over 40 days, as income from other sources virtually dried up due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.
On normal days, the daily average liquor sale was to the tune of Rs 65 crore. Given the less number of shops opened, the sale today was encouraging, an official of the Excise department told PTI. The 25 per cent hike in liquor prices is expected to fetch an additional revenue of Rs 4,500 crore per annum.
"But we have lost close to Rs 3,000 crore of income because of the lockdown so far," the official said.
Technical glitches in computers in government-run liquor outlets reportedly caused abnormal delay in sales.
In border districts like Chittoor, SPS Nellore, East Godavari and Krishna, tipplers from neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Telangana joined the long queues since Monday morning to purchase liquor. At Yetapaka in East Godavari district, people from Telangana joined the queues outside the shops as sale of liquor did not resume in the neighbouring state.
At Palasamudram in Chittoor district, reports here said, people from Tamil Nadu came in hordes to purchase liquor, forming a mob. At the behest of Tamil Nadu authorities, the Andhra Pradesh officials suspended liquor sale here to restore order.
Similar reports came in from Tada area in SPS Nellore district bordering Tamil Nadu.
The crowd was so heavy that at a couple of places the sale had to be suspended to maintain order.
Despite clear instructions from the Chief Ministers Office, some District Collectors did not issue corresponding orders due to which police did not allow the outlets to open at the stipulated time (11 am), though people queued up before them from 10 am.
Only in Prakasam district, not a single shop out of the 280 was opened following instructions from the Collector, the official said.
Of the 3,500 shops in the state, only about 313 were opened till noon in various districts, as per the report prepared by the Excise Department. In some districts, the liquor shops were finally opened after 1 pm, but there was no order due to heavy crowds.
As the state government issued an order only after Sunday midnight enhancing the liquor rates, the computation of new prices in the systems did not happen, resulting in chaos. Also, scanning the price tag proved to be a slow process, causing delay in sales. Such complaints were received from districts like Visakhapatnam, Chittoor and SPS Nellore.