New Delhi: Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia on Monday announced that the legal age to consume alcohol in the national capital will be 21 now. Earlier, it was 25 in Delhi. “The legal age to drink in Delhi will now be 21. There will be no government liquor stores in Delhi,” said Sisodia while addressing a press conference notifying the new Excise policy.
The legal age to consume alcohol varies across different states and it was a long pending demand in Delhi to bring this down from 25 to 21. In the press conference, Sisodia also announced that there will be no government liquor stores in Delhi now, all will be privatised. This hints at a possible exit of the Delhi government from the liquor business, however, Sisodia added that all unlicensed liquor stores will also be shut down.
“The new excise policy was approved by the Cabinet today on basis of the Group of Ministers’ recommendations. It is now decided that no new liquor shops will be opened in Delhi and the government will not run any liquor shops any more. At present, 60 per cent liquor shops in Delhi are run by the government,” Sisodia said at a press conference on Monday.
Apart from these two changes, Delhi Deputy CM also added that a laboratory will soon be set up in Delhi which will check the quality of liquor sold in various shops. In addition, more private players will be roped into opening shops in areas where there are no liquor shops. Currently, roughly 50 wards in Delhi have one shop each while 87 wards have none.
As a measure to check nuisance, he warned that a ‘No tolerance policy’ will be enforced for liquor shops that may create disturbance in any area. These changes have also been brought forth to address the issue of tax evasion by the liquor mafia.
“It will be a major blow to the liquor mafia in Delhi. The liquor mafia currently operated more than 2,000 illegal shops which result in tax evasion of Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 2,000 crore,” said Sisodia. According to him, Delhi has only 850 registered liquor shops.
Sisodia also said that most of the liquor shops are overcrowded due to the lack of space. It will be now mandatory to have at least 500 sq ft to open liquor shops now. After this announcement, Delhi will join major metropolitans across the world to have minimum age as low as 21 to consume alcohol.
Youngsters across the city welcomed this decision by the Delhi Government. Some even requested CM Arvind Kejriwal to serve liquor for free in the capital. Some went so far as to call it ‘Acche Din’ in Delhi.
The Delhi state government earned more than Rs 6,570 crore from liquor, which is about 9.5 per cent of the total estimated revenue. The policy was approved by the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet on Monday and will come into effect after it is notified in a couple of days.