Dry days, then dry states, and now we’re at the brink of what seems like a dry nation! Last week, the Supreme Court announced its decision of banning the sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways. This was in response to a petition against drunk driving leading to lakhs of road accidents every year. It seemed well intended but got us questioning—is this the best and the only solution?
People at first got amused, then furious, but gradually came to accept it. The ban came as a big blow to the hospitality industry in all major cities in India as hotels and restaurants, big and small, started bleeding. According to reports, hotels in Chandigarh will take a loss of more than Rs 3 crore this week. Lakhs of people in the F&B sector will lose their jobs and tourism will also suffer.
While state authorities in various parts of India are trying to find ways to work around the ban—either by re-designating their highways or looking for legal loopholes, millennials like you and me are left wondering, is this for real?
No Method To The Madness
Delhi and Gurugram aka Gurgaon have taken a big hit, as their top-notch restaurants have come under the scanner. Let’s look at Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub, for instance. It’s one of the best and most happening hangouts for both Delhiites and the people of Gurgaon. The ban is a shocker not only for the consumers but for the restaurant owners too, for obvious reasons. What was running through the jury’s mind while taking this decision? By exercising the ban, they meant to control drunk driving cases and harassment cases by drunk drivers near highways. So, the plan is to not curb the crime but to kill the circumstances. And how? Isn’t there a shop at say 550 metres, which can easily be accessed by the culprits? Needless to say, most of these notorious drivers and truck drivers, in particular, carry their own alcohol and drugs sourced from elsewhere and don’t exactly stop by at a roadside shop to make the purchase. So, how does this ruling ensure that drivers who drink will find it difficult to find liquor if they really wish to?
As observed by Ambika Bhutani, MA student, 26, “People who want to drink will find one way or the other. A responsible driver will ensure that he doesn’t drink and drive, which won’t be the case for an irresponsible one! It’s also a great loss for the people who invested so much in their restaurants and lounges. The rents that they have to pay are pretty damn high!” She adds, “The accidents are not always because of drunk driving; there are numerous other reasons for it, so a total ban (on the sale of liquor) might not be of much help.”
Probable Plus Points
Let’s get another perspective from Gurgaon-based housewife and socialite Shilpa Jain, 32, “My son’s school is near the highway and I’m very happy with the court ruling. It brings me relief that at least there will be no drunk drivers around the school area, which was always my cause of worry, as he uses school bus for commuting.” Whether or not the ruling helps in bringing down the cases of drunk driving is for us to wait and watch. If it truly does help, people might slowly learn to live with it.
Looking For An Escape Route
There have been some interesting incidences post this rule announcement. In Chandigarh, the UT administration has amended the classification of roads from State Highways to ‘major district roads’. Intelligent, eh? In another case, some 5-star hotels near highways in Gurgaon can be seen holding placards stating that their entrance has been shifted to another side. Sounds funny? They call it an escape route. And it’s not funny at all. Imagine the sorry state of affairs for these restaurant owners. How are they going to manage the stock at hand? How awkward will it be for them to show a sorry face to the customers who have pre-booked a party with them? Out of sheer helplessness, some restaurants offered massive discounts on alcohol last week before the ban came into effect, calling it ‘the last Friday night!’
A Dry India?
If this news has left you high and dry (quite literally so), you may not want to head to Cyber Hub anymore, and instead find other ways of quenching your thirst. What’s your take on the SC ruling? Tell us in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar