Govt’s Booze Boost To Kashmir Tourism

Representational Photo

6 More Liquor Outlets To Open In Valley, 3 In Tourist Resorts

Srinagar- The Jammu and Kashmir government is all set to open six new liquor outlets in parts of the Valley, including this capital city in a bid to boost tourism.

Kishore Singh Chib, Commissioner Excise Department told Kashmir Observer that under the new excise policy 2022-23, the government has decided to open new liquor outlets in tourist destinations.

The tourist destinations where the liquor shops are likely to be opened are Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam, he said.

Apart from the three prominent tourist resorts, the government has also identified two places in the Municipal Limits of Srinagar and one in Baramulla town of north Kashmir. The two new liquor shops of Srinagar will be functioning in ‘safer zones’

It may be noted that the excise department has identified 51 new locations, 45 in different parts of the Jammu division and six in Kashmir Valley.

According to official data of the Excise Department, out of total 224 liquor shops in J&K, 220 shops are in Jammu province only.

Sources told Kashmir Observer that in Jammu province; almost all the districts have liquor shops while Kashmir has four places where liquor is sold.

Chib also assured safety from the government to the bidders who feel threatened in any way.

“But our focus is that the new liquor shops will boost tourism and we will have quality liquor,” he added.

In 2021, he said, four bids for liquor outlets were approved by the department, however only two were made operational by the successful bidders—one on Boulevard and another in Cantonment Board, Sonwar area of Srinagar.

On February 23, additional Chief Secretary, Finance, Atal Dulloo announced the ‘Excise Policy 2022-23’ and said that the administration will ensure that only single vend is secured by a bidder whose eligibility has been capped to the domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir only.

He further said that the new policy would also put an effective check on the menace of bootlegging and smuggling of all narcotic drugs in J&K from neighboring states and UTs.

According to an order from the Excise Department, a copy of which lies with the Kashmir Observer, there will be e-auction of vends and the e-auction portal would be governed by J&K Bank as a third party nodal agency, adding

“Excise Department will allot 51 new vends in un-served/under-served areas in addition to 228 vends as already notified vide SO No.114 of 2021”, reads the order.

It adds that the auctions will be done in a completely secure and transparent manner. The detailed procedure for -auction/instructions to the bidders are available on the e-auction portal and on the official web site of the department

It further says that the reserve price of each shop is Rs. 5 lacs as given in the Excise Policy. The bidders can bid in increments of Rs. 25000/= (Max. one lac) beyond the reserve price.

In case the highest bid is received within 5 minutes before the scheduled closing time of bidding, the time for e-auction shall be automatically extended by another 5 minutes beyond the scheduled closing of the particular bid.

In 2020, the J&K government had announced plans to open liquor outlets at different locations in the Kashmir Valley.

The Excise Department had identified new 183 locations, 116 in Jammu and 67 in the Kashmir Valley, for the sale of liquor but the same proposal was turned down by the Finance Department without giving any reason.

Cinemas and liquor shops were closed down in the Valley with the onset of militancy in 1989. However, as the militancy lost steam in late 90's, two liquor outlets opened at Batwara and Aloochi Bagh, with active support from the government.

The liquor shops and those running it came under militant attacks in this capital city.

On November 15, 2012, militants opened fire at liquor shops located on high security Boulevard here, killing a salesman and injuring four others.

On June 30, 2011, a 5-kg IED, placed inside a steel container, was planted near the liquor shop. Later, a bomb disposal squad from police defused the device without any damage to life.

Earlier in 2004, suspected militants had shot dead the owner of Aloochi Bagh liquor shop, Abdul Hameed Sheikh forcing the closure of the outlet.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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