Following the footsteps of Kerala, Karnataka has now redesignated state highways running through Bengaluru as city roads, bringing relief to thousands of liquor shops.
According to a report by the Times of India, at least 3,200 liquor vendors can now breathe a sigh of relief as 1,476.69 km of state highways have been converted to city roads.
The Karnataka Public Works Department, on June 13, issued a notification renaming 1,476.69 km roads which pass through urban local bodies as city roads, the report added.
State highways span a total length of 19,578.15km. On March 31, the Supreme Court issued an order to shut down all liquor shops, restaurants, bars and outlets selling alcohol within 500 m of state and national highways, with the range reduced to 220 m in towns with less than 20,000 people.
The directive posed a closure threat to 6,015 liquor vendors in Kanataka, whose licences expire on June 30.
According to Honnagiri Gowda, President of the Karnataka Wine Merchants Association, the governmentâ€™s move will save 50% of liquor shops in the state.
â€śThe government can still save 3,000-odd liquor vendors if they denotify national highways as well. But now that the licence renewal is coming up on June 30, atleast half the liquor shops can now be relieved,â€ť Gowda added.
Although the redesignation of the highways has brought vendors a sigh of relief, the PWDâ€™s notice does not mention the apex courtâ€™s order or liquor shops.
Officials with the PWD, however, claimed that the Karnataka government has taken this step in the interest of development and to facilitate civic work along the highways.
â€śThe redesignation of state highways has nothing to do with the SC order on liquor trade. Now urban local bodies do not have to deal with highway authorities whenever they have to take up repair and maintenance work of either laying cables or pipes,â€ť M Lakshminarayana, Principal Secretary, PWD said.
The government has sent a proposal to the Centre to denotify the national highways spanning 800 km, which pass through municipal corporation limits in the state.
Lakshminarayana said that the proposal is pending the approval of the Ministry of highways and the national Highway Authority of India.
With the redesignation of state highways as city roads, these stretches will now be maintained by the said urban local bodies. The ones in Bengaluru will be maintained by the cash-strapped BBMP. The PWD, however, has reassured the civic bodies that they will share the burden of expenses as it gets around Rs 9,000 crore in the form of budget allocation, the TOI report said.
â€śA substantial portion of both state and national highways is being maintained by BBMP and the government's move to redesignate state highways or denotify national highways would not be a burden on us. We are ready to maintain the roads,â€ť said George told TOI.