Hindustan Times, March 20, 1999 (Amitabh Srivastava)
Tension is building up in the city as the D-day for the auction of liquor vends approaches near.
The total revenue in this lucrative business along with lottery and quarrying in hill areas is about Rs 300 crore per annum. It is more than the non-Plan expenditure of Uttarakhand. According to sources, all the business in the area is under the control of a Moradabad businessman. This lobby has been ruling the roost here. It had also staked its claim in the auction of liquor shops in Etah and bagged the contract by quoting higher rates.
The rivalry has created tension in the area. Senior officials are keeping their fingers crossed. They are also in touch with their officers in Lucknow. About 151 people have been issued identity cards to gain entry to the auction hall on March 26 when the auction is scheduled to take place. Of them, 91 are from this lobby. Thirty passes are issued to people from Etah and seven for a group close to a liquor businessman from Ghaziabad.
The lobby, which is in power, tried to prevent one group from entering the ring by giving a memorandum to the administration. But the officials after consulting lawyers, decided to issue passes to other group. Ideology has nothing to do with the policy on liquor. The hills are adversely affected, giving rise to slogans like ‘Sooraj act, pahad mast’. One cannot say that there is no resistance to this policy among the masses.
The Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, headed by Mrs Kamla Pant, has recently handed over a memorandum to District Magistrate P. K. Mohanti, demanding total prohibition in Uttarakhand. Mrs Pant says: ”Women have been protesting against the sale of liquor in Uttarakhand. They have also damaged liquor shops but a lot remains to be done. We have great hopes from the BJP Government that it would be different but they are all the same.” In Srinagar (Garhwal), the students took out a rally demanding a ban on the sale of liquor.