Vincent, a fisherman from Veli of Thiruvananthapuram district, had reached his nearest liquor outlet early in the morning on Thursday, as he heard the news that it would be open. After reaching there however, he came to know that the liquor is given only to those who book it online.
“I use a normal phone, and I don't know anything about this. I don't understand why they don't consider people like us. However, another person in the queue helped me get a bottle. Happy to see that it's opened," he said.
Sasi, a daily wage worker who is 65 years old, asks, “I just need a pint bottle, can I buy a costly phone to get that?”
Like Vincent and Sasi there were several others in front of the beverages outlets in the capital city who had no clue what this new online system is. As the liquor outlets of Kerala reopen after two months, people are happy but not fully satisfied.
When the government launched the BevQ mobile application, which gives people a token to buy liquor from the outlets in order to avoid crowding, people were hopeful. However Thursday, the first day of liquor sale after the application was launched, was not fully smooth.
Shinto a salesman in a textiles shop in Alappuzha, said the app crashed multiple times when he tried to get a token. “They made big announcements, and we had high expectations – but nothing works,” he said. There are also complaints that the application is getting stuck and there are some issues over receiving OTP when it's downloaded.
Others said the app was easy to use. Rajan, a construction worker from Thiruvananthapuram, said, “Usually I used to stand at least an hour in a queue to get liquor. I drink daily. But this queue was smaller because of the token system. I am not so used to the app, but my son-in-law helped me get a token," he said.
Though the application is intended for a virtual queue, at many places crowds were seen, and physical distancing was almost non-existent. Police had to strictly warn people and send some of them back home as everyone was standing close.
"Many had come without booking. There was also some delay in scanning the code on the mobile phone. At some places they stopped scanning the code and people started rushing in," a civil police officer from Thiruvananthapuram who was on duty said.
“My slot was at 11.15 am. When I reached, there was a pretty long queue. About 40 people were there. But on other days we could see hundreds standing in line, so this is better. We got enough liquor. A bar nearby had a huge rush – more than 80 people were standing in line,” Rijo from Kannur said.
PC/Arun Chandra Bose
Another major issue cited by people is the non availability of cheaper brands in five star bar outlets.
“I got a token at a four star bar in Kannur. They don't have any of the cheaper brands, so instead Rs 500, I had to spend Rs 1200 today. But they have promised that they will bring cheaper brands of Indian Made Foreign liquor," Alan, an engineering student from Kannur said.
Meanwhile, even on the second day after the BevQ app launched, people have raised complaints on the application. As per reports, though many received tokens for Friday, error message keep showing on the app, making the who exercise redundant. A few reports also said that some bars have started selling liquor without tokens because of the technical glitch.
More than three lakh people have downloaded the app as of now. The app was not available in iOS operating systems. There were also criticisms against the app that it doesn't give a choice to the customer to select a time and place for the purchase.
Meanwhile Beverages Corporation MD Sparjan Kumar told the media that the issues with the application will be solved soon and that it has just started.