It has been over two months since 741 liquor vendors in Bengaluru were forced to shut down after the Supreme Court banned the sale of alcohol within 500m of a highway.
With businesses running under heavy losses, the Karnataka government is under pressure to save the liquor industry and is now blaming the Centre for the delay in de-notifying certain highways.
According to the Times of India, the state Public Works Department (PWD) is laying the blame on the Centre, saying that it was deliberately delaying the Karnataka government’s proposal to denotify certain stretches of national highways, causing inconvenience to trade and loss to the state exchequer.
The PWD department officials are frustrated that the Centre is not moving fast despite the clarifications furnished by the state and also the undertaking that the state government is ready to maintain the said stretches of national highways in Karnataka if they aren't denotified, the report adds.
The Karnataka government wants 704.5km of national highways running through the state including more than 77km in Bengaluru, to be denotified.
On August 8, M Lakshminarayana, Additional Chief Secretary to the PWD, sent an undertaking to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, stating that Karnataka would take over the NH stretches and maintain them as per the standards prescribed by the Indian Road Congress (IRS).
Lakshminarayana, had assured the Centre that the state government would release Rs 8 lakh per km (per year) for the maintenance of the stretches.
The letter also clarified that the state government would work with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to work out a plan to ensure that the denotification has minimum legal and financial implications.
The PWD submitted this undertaking after the Karnataka government submitted a detailed, point-by-point clarification on July 31 to the Centre and had asked for denotification of these stretches.
The government had also mentioned the alternate routes bypassing the stretches, so that the continuity of the national highways would not disturbed.
The Union Minister of Highways and Road Transport had rejected an earlier proposal submitted by the state government on June 15.
In the meantime, the Karnataka High Court, had taken up petitions filed by pub owners in Bengaluru, who sought denotification of the national highways and had asked the Centre to submit its explanation.
The Union Ministry officials, who had appeared before the court had said that the Centre had sought certain clarifications from the state. The court will hear this case on Thursday.
The state has offered the Centre two options -- to either denotify the stretches or hand over these stretches to the state government as per the undertaking submitted on August 8. The state plans to contest this point before the court on Thursday, the TOI report adds.
The excise department, which has been tasked with achieving a revenue of Rs 18,050 crore, is facing troubles with the fall in liquor consumption due to the highway ban.
The TOI reports states that there has been a 6 % month-to-month dip after the highway ban. The department has now hiked excise duty, to maintain the rate of revenue.