After 741 liquor vends in Bengaluru downed their shutters following the Supreme Court’s highway liquor ban, the businesses were told by members of the excise department that the issue would be solved within a week.
Angered by the inaction of the government, over 500 bar owners and employees carried out a silent march from Kantirava Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station to Freedom Park, on Monday, Deccan Herald reported.
The protesting owners and employees demanded that the Karnataka government follow in the footsteps of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab governments and amend the Excise Act to allow pubs and bars to function 500 m from highways.
The march was organised by the Federation of Wine Merchants’ Association (FWMA) on Monday afternoon. The ban on sale of liquor with 500 m of the highways has shut down several long-time watering holes in MG Road, Brigade Road, Church Street and Indiranagar, and owners have been incurring huge losses.
After the Supreme Court ordered on July 4 that national highways within the city could be denotified, the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh governments amended the existing excise rules, the Karnataka government must do the same. What are they waiting for? the association members questioned.
According to Guruswamy, chairman, of the FWMA, “I feel I have lost something close to my heart. The pain caused by the ban is unbearable. Our only appeal to the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is to grant us permission to carry on our business like we were doing before. This is not a loss cause for one outlet but thousands of liquor vends across the state.”
M Meharwade, treasurer of FWMA said that the protest was staged to save the livelihood of 6,000 people associated with the liquor industry. “Many bar owners have sent their employees home and they too are waiting for some action. It breaks my heart to see these people suffer,” he told media persons.
“We have been appealing to the government to make amendments for the past three months. Our industry generates revenues of around Rs 18,000 crore. We have contributed thousands of crores to the government in taxes. We are proud to be wine merchants. This ban is causing losses of around Rs 15 crore a day,” Lokesh of Bangalore District Division was quoted by Deccan Herald.
After the silent march, representatives of the association demanded Siddaramaiah’s intervention when they met him and 25 MLAs regarding this issue. Siddaramaiah has assured them that the government will take a call on the issue based on the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday.