JK government allows department stores in urban areas to sell beer

The government claimed that the sale of beer and other alcoholic drinks can bring in huge revenue to the region (Representative image)

The government claimed that the sale of beer and other alcoholic drinks can bring in huge revenue to the region (Representative image)

The Jammu and Kashmir government has allowed major grocery shops and departmental stores in urban parts of the Union Territory to sell beer and other ready-to-drink beverages.

While the move is expected to generate revenue for the government, some residents said the open sale of beer and ready-to-drink beverages should be restricted.

The administrative council under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and including Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, advisor to the Lieutenant Governor, and chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, approved a proposal to authorise departmental stores to sell beer and other ready-to-drink beverages in urban areas — in Jammu, Srinagar and other major towns in J&K.

Over eight months ago, the J&K government had approved the establishment of 51 new wine shops, six of them in Kashmir Valley.

According to an official spokesperson, departmental stores located in commercial complexes with a minimum carpet area of 1,200 square feet and a minimum annual turnover of Rs 5 crore in the cities of Jammu and Srinagar and Rs 2 crore in other urban areas will be eligible to apply for beer licences.

Chain stores

A departmental store chain with an annual turnover of more than Rs 10 crore can apply for separate licences for each of its stores, the spokesperson added.

Additionally, departmental stores should have operated for at least 12 months prior to the date of application. However, this condition will not apply in case of a newly opened outlet of a departmental store chain with an annual turnover exceeding Rs 10 crore.

The departmental stores should sell at least six categories of items from among grocery items, frozen foods, confectionery/ bakery items, toiletries, cosmetics, household goods, utensils/ kitchenware, sports items, electrical/ electronic appliances, apparels, and stationery.

The government also allowed the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation to sell beer and ready-to-drink beverages in unserved/ underserved areas in consultation with the district development commissioner concerned.

However, departmental stores functioning at petrol pumps will not be eligible to apply for permits to sell beer.

Beer, according to the J&K excise department, turned out to be the “favourite drink” of the people of Kashmir, with over 5.2 million bottles sold from March 2014 to November 2016 in central Kashmir — Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal, while 40,729 bottles of ready-to-drink beverages were sold in this period.

Kashmir, where militant outfits had banned the sale and consumption of liquor in 1994, recorded a surge in the sale and consumption of liquor during the past 10 years.

The government claimed that the sale of beer and other alcoholic drinks can bring in huge revenue to the region. Between March 2014 and November 2016, the J&K government said a total of Rs 17,569 crore (including Rs 7,292.84 crore estimated revenue) had been generated from the sale of liquor, with Jammu contributing a major share.

Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Moneycontrol that hardly anyone will sell beer and other ready-to-drink beverages in Kashmir due to religious and cultural aspects.

“Selling beer and other alcoholic stuff is not going to work in a place like Kashmir though it may work in Jammu province. Only a minute population drinks alcoholic stuff and they manage to get it from duly licensed liquor shops. Therefore, people in general would avoid buying it,” said Ashiq.

Limited outlets

Haji Khazir Mohammad Dar, a tourist operator, said the sale of alcoholic items should be limited.

“No doubt Kashmir is a top tourist destination and tourists would want beer and liquor available to them. But instead of making it available in open stores, it should be available in limited outlets. Amid the increasing drug addiction in Kashmir, the sale of alcoholic items can degrade future generations,” said Dar, who has been associated with the tourism sector since 1956.

In 2020, religious and political organisations in the Valley had opposed a move to open liquor vends in Kashmir, prompting the J&K government to clarify that it was not considering any such move.

Chandan Gupta, who runs Monika Supermarket in Gandhi Nagar in Jammu, called the government’s decision a “healthy move.”

“It is a positive decision and I think it will increase our source of income. From a business point of view, sellers will make good sales by selling beer and other alcoholic items. The government can also earn huge revenue by such decisions,” Gupta told Moneycontrol.

Arun Gupta, president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) declined to comment on the matter immediately, saying he needed to first check the government’s directions of allowing the sale of beer in departmental stores in Jammu.