Skip to main content

SC order on liquor ban: None for the road (.hind )

The SC should examine the consequence of its order on the liquor trade — and amend it

The liquor trade, as the Supreme Court has emphasised, is indeed res extra commercium, something outside the idea of commerce. It exists solely at the discretion of policymakers without any concomitant fundamental right that other businesses enjoy. The point was cited by the court while ordering that liquor sales be prohibited within 500 metres from national and State highways. In a different sense, it only underscores how much the executive is, and ought to be, involved in policy-making on the subject. Imposing restrictions on the location of liquor outlets, applying them in a differential manner to vends, hotels and standalone bars is undoubtedly an executive decision. It is possible to argue that the executive will be lax in enforcement, corrupt in licensing or too revenue-centric to worry about the social costs of its decisions. However, is that reason enough for the judiciary to impose norms without regard to the problems that they may give rise to? Frankly, the answer is no. The court’s ill-considered order is wholly concerned with the availability of liquor — to the point that it bans sale of liquor on highway stretches even within city and town limits, where police checks are quite common — and does not touch upon strengthening the enforcement of the law against drunk driving. With the same moral outrage against high fatalities on our roads, and with much less economic cost, the court could have ordered stricter patrolling on highways and regular check-points.

The order has come down like a sledgehammer not only on the liquor vends and the hospitality sector but also on the revenues of State governments, on the business of hotels and bars, and the tourism potential of many parts of the country. The inventive responses of State governments and the industry give an idea of how much they are affected by it — and indeed how absurd the court’s order is. States are downgrading highways into ‘urban roads’ or ‘major district roads’, moves fraught with consequences as safety and quality norms may be compromised; local bodies, which now have to maintain them, may not find the required resources. Some luxury hotels situated on highways are creating alternative entrances to claim that their bars are located beyond 500 metres. An enterprising owner has built a maze of sorts to create a longer walking distance from a highway to his bar. It is not clear how the 500-metre distance is to be measured — as a straight line from the highway in any direction or along the paths leading to an outlet. One may denounce or laugh away these moves to circumvent the order; but they can be also seen as desperate responses from those fearing loss of income, jobs and business. The court should have the wisdom and the humility to examine the consequences of its order and do the necessary thing — amend it.

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Khar’s experimentation with Himalayan nettle brings recognition (downtoearth)

Nature never fails to surprise us. In many parts of the world, natural resources are the only source of livelihood opportunities available to people. They can be in the form of wild shrubs like Daphne papyracea and Daphne bholua (paper plant) that are used to make paper or Gossypium spp (cotton) that forms the backbone of the textile industry.

Nothing can compete with the dynamism of biological resources. Recently, Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan nettle), a fibre-yielding plant, has become an important livelihood option for people living in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

A Himalayan nettle value chain development initiative implemented by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiati…

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…