Taking the rising number of highway accidents due to drunken driving seriously, the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI) and the state government are cracking down on liquor shops alongside the state and national highways.
Abiding by the directions from NHAI, the Excise Department has issued notices to as many as 69 liquor shops in the district that are located within 220 metres of highways, asking them to move away from national and state highways.
NHAI had earlier issued notices to chief secretaries of all state governments to take necessary action to vacate liquor shops that are located adjacent to National Highways and not to issue fresh licences. This was to reduce the number of accidents on highways mostly because of drunken driving.
Among the 69 shops, 23 shops are located on National Highways and 36 on State Highways. Of them, 37 liquor shops have brought a stay from court following notices. Notices have also been issued to Fish Land Restaurant and Prajwal Bar located on the outskirts of city on Mysuru-Bengaluru highway, said department officials.
Speaking to City Today, Deputy Superintendent, Excise Department, P Ramesh said that the shops have been given three months’ time to shift failing which they will be shut. “A couple of licensees have managed to bring a stay on the order from the court. However, this will only give them some more breathing space and not any exemption as the action comes in the wake of Supreme Court’s direction to reduce accidents on highways,” he said.
As per the Excise Act, Ramesh explained, the building in which the liquor shop is located should not be within 220 meters from the middle of the state or national highway. However, the 220 meters rule does not apply to liquor shops located within the city and towns.
INCREASING ACCIDENTS ON HIGHWAYS
The increasing number of road accidents on highways has remained the major concern. Of 290 accidents that were reported on NH and SH in the district in 2014, 162 were fatal claiming as many as 190 lives. The number of accidents in 2015 shot up to 303 of which 178 were fatal accidents claiming over 200 lives.
In 2016, till July 31, 201 accidents were reported on highways of which 126 were fatal that claimed 161 lives.
Meanwhile, experts were of the opinion that mere shifting liquor shops from highways would not address the problem given the large number of unauthorised liquor shops that have mushroomed on highways in the form of Dhabas. Liquor is served in most of the Dhabas which have outnumbered the licensed liquor shops. The authorities should crack down on such unauthorised shops as well, they said.
One of the bar owners said that there were many hotels and Dhabas on Mysuru-Bengaluru, Mysuru Manandavadi and Mysuru-Bantwal highways that serve liquor illegally. Many of them have been raided by police and the Excise Department in the past and that has proved a futile exercise. “If this sale of liquor is not stopped, I don’t think shifting of authorised liquor shops will be of any use,” he said.