Home » It will destroy youngsters, say people objecting to state’s new wine policy | Mumbai news

It will destroy youngsters, say people objecting to state’s new wine policy | Mumbai news

It will destroy youngsters, say people objecting to state’s new wine policy | Mumbai news

Mumbai:

Mumbai: ‘Allowing off-the-shelf sale of wine could destroy the state’s youngsters.’ ‘The move is not suitable for a progressive state like Maharashtra…,’ say some of the responses received by the state government, objecting to its new wine policy, which allowed the drinks to be sold in supermarkets for ‘off-premises’ consumption.

“Of the 3,384 responses received so far, around 2,500 are against the policy. Of these, 125 suggestions and objections have been received by post and the rest via email,” shared a senior state government official.

Some of the objections say that the policy must be struck down completely as “it will destroy the younger generation,” while others profess a blanket opposition to the idea.

Interestingly, the official noted that several of these responses were similar, only the names were changed. “Something striking is that several responses we have received are similar, word-to-word, but have been sent in different names in what seems to be a copy-paste job,” the official shared.

In January, the state cabinet had allowed supermarkets and walk-in stores to retail wine in sealed bottles for ‘off-consumption’ as per the ‘shelf-in-shop’ concept. Currently, shops or some supermarkets are permitted to sell wine by obtaining a licence issued by the excise department. Supermarkets have to keep an enclosed area within their premises to sell wine and other liquor.

The new policy seeks to encourage wine consumption and create alternate marketing channels for wine beyond the ubiquitous retail shops. The state said the move was aimed at increasing wine consumption which could benefit grape farmers in Nashik and other parts of the state.

This led to protests from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and from sobriety activists, with Gandhian and social worker Anna Hazare threatening a fast. Hazare, however, withdrew his decision after parleys with the state government.

On 31 March, the state government published the draft rules to allow walk-in stores and supermarkets to retail wine. The period for people to submit their suggestions and objections on these Special Permit and Licences (Amendment) Rules, 2022, was fixed for 90 days and will end on 29 June.

After this, the suggestions and objections will be processed and the rules will be finalised.

Though there is no time frame that is down for submitting responses on such rules, the convention is to allow a reasonable period, which is normally around 15 days to a month. However, the state government officials had set a 90-day period considering the opposition to the move.

Those supporting the creation of these alternate retailing channels for wine, laud the policy, stating that this will “benefit the farmers,” “ensure remunerative pricing for farmers,” and note that “local, fruit-based produce like wine must be promoted by the state.”

A government official shared that they will go through the responses after 29 June and compile them. “This will be a huge exercise. After this, the state government will decide if it wants to finalise the draft rules or scrap the policy altogether,” said the official. He also stated that a final decision about this was expected to be taken by the end of the year.

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Despite the controversy over allowing stores to retail wine, officials say that the actual number of licences granted under the new policy will be much lower than speculated.

The state government’s figures say that only 600 such establishments in Maharashtra will be eligible for the new licence, due to the conditions involved. Some of them may be disqualified under the conditions laid down in the draft rules and translate into fewer licences being applied for and granted.

Ashwin Rodrigues, a vinter and managing director of Good Drop Wine Cellars admitted that there was confusion that not just wine, but all liquor will be sold in departmental stores.

“Only large supermarkets will be allowed to sell wine, and the number will be around 600… some of these may not apply for the licence for religious reasons or because wine drinkers do not form their clientele,” he explained.

“Wine has numerous benefits,” said Rodrigues, who went on to explain, “Wine is less harmful to health and beneficial in moderate quantities…. It is important for farmers, as it puts the most money in their pockets vis-a-vis other spirits,” said Rodrigues, who is also a core committee member of the All India Wine Producers Association (AIWPA).

He shared that while a litre of beer required 200 grams of rice or wheat, a litre of wine needed 1.5 kg of fruit. Hence, European countries promoted wine due to its backward linkages and potential for rural development.

Of around 83 crore litres of liquor that were sold in Maharashtra in the previous financial year, wine does not account for even 1 crore litre. In 2020-21, country liquor (32 crore litres) topped the consumption chart followed by beer (30 crore litres) and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) (20 crore litres). Wine sales were just around 70 lakh litres.

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