Even as the debate over home delivery of alcohol rages on within the food and restaurant industry, the Maharashtra excise department on Tuesday (May 12) decided to start an online token system on a pilot basis for the sale of liquor in Pune to avoid crowding at shops. A similar system has been put in place in Delhi, while Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have allowed home delivery of alcohol by online ordering.
The move comes after a number of people gathered in large numbers outside liquor shops at several places in Maharashtra, which has the most number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India. On May 11, the state saw 1,230 confirmed new cases, as the total tally exceeded 23,000. Under the new e-token system, a person can get a virtual token by registering on the state excise department’s website and then go to the shop to buy liquor, a senior exercise department official said on Monday. Only those with the token will be permitted to buy liquor.
In this new system, a person has to register on the state excise departments portal to get a token. Once a token has been generated, a person can go to the liquor store to buy alcohol.
A senior department official, quoted in a Livemint report, said that stores will sell liquor to only those people who would be carrying the token with themselves. “It will help in preventing long queues of people outside liquor shops. Huge crowds outside shops put a lot of pressure on the state administration to enforce physical distancing, he added.
The Big Pitch For Liquor Delivery
But industry body, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) as well as hyperlocal delivery service providers have been calling for home delivery of alcohol with additional checks and balances on limits and age verification. CIABC reached out to the government urging app-based delivery of alcohol. Speaking to Inc42, CIABC director-general Vinod Giri said that it has also written letters to various state governments seeking permission for app-based or online delivery of liquor and alcohol.
Besides the CIABC, International Spirits and Wines Association of India has also raised similar requests in front of the government. While the CIABC is a representative body of Indian alcohol beverage makers, ISWAI raises the demands and concerns of international breweries and spirit-makers such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Beam Suntory.
Last week, the Supreme Court advised the state governments to consider “indirect sales” and “home delivery” of liquor to avoid overcrowding at the recently opened liquor stores.
The suggestion was made by a three-judge bench headed by Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and BR Gavai, hearing public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a ban on liquor sale during the lockdown as it was leading to gross violation of social distancing norms.
“We will not pass any order but states should consider home delivery or indirect sale of liquor to maintain social distancing,” the bench said. Meanwhile, Justice Kaul also added that discussion on home delivery of alcohol is already going on.
Delhi Shows The Way For Alcohol E-Tokens
Meanwhile, the Delhi government introduced a similar digital portal to disburse electronic tokens (e-tokens) for buyers. Delhi, which was the first to operate the system last week, saw over 4.75 Lakh e-tokens being issued in three days.
Though the excise department website crashed on Thursday due to heavy rush to book the tokens, it was later up and running. Liquor worth INR 6.5 Cr to INR 7 crore is being sold daily nowadays, though only 200 government-run shops out of a total of 800 in the city have been allowed to operate.
With inputs from Manoj Menon.