Nagpur: As the Supreme Court order led to closure of all liqour serving dens along highways, Nagpur’s big water holes too felt the heat. The bars being run in prominent city hotels including Radisson Blu, Centre Point, Hotel Ashoka and many others lined up along national highway were all sealed. But here’s a sip of respite.
It is learnt that the Maharashtra government has found a fool proof way to favour liqour lobby and eventually defy the apex court order.
The state has cleared that the ban will not apply to those parts of highways that are being de-notified and handed over to local municipal bodies to maintain. Having said that the State Government has already accelarated the process to denotify the state highways and national highways passing through municipal areas. This will allow the government to bypass apex court order.
Sources informed that the State government was silently processing this plan for the past three months.
Latur and Jalna Municipal Corporations have already submitted the proposal to bring the national highways within its boundaries under the control of local bodies. It is learnt that soon Nagpur, Aurangabad and Nanded too would follow the suit.
State excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule announced the decision in the legislative Assembly, but maintained that it was a policy decision and not an attempt by the state to allow liquor sale in the restricted areas.
“On June 9, 2001, the state had decided to allow municipal bodies to take over highways passing through its limits for maintenance. To get this done, we de-notify that patch of the highway, which includes the bypass, ring road etc,” Bawankule said. The state will continue to de-notify highways if municipal bodies come up with proposals for their maintenance, as it was a policy decision taken long back, he said, but quickly clarified: “This doesn’t mean the government wants establishments to serve liquor.”
In December last year, taking note of the large number accidents on highways caused by drink driving, the SC had ordered a ban on all establishments within 500 metres of highways that served liquor. On Friday, the court said the order also applied to restaurants, hotels and bars, and not just liquor vends.
However in all likelihood these dry water holes in Nagpur may soon resume its operations, as the State government has humbly bowed down to the piling pressure from the great liqour lobby.