Amid rising demand for alcohol ban in J&K, sales grow 13%

In 5 years, state consumes 27 cr bottles of liquor

Raising alarm bells in Kashmir society, liquor sales in J&K have increased by 13 percent in last five years to 5.65 crore bottles in 2016-17.

While the people in general are dismayed over the rising consumption of alcohol, as it is ‘causing social distraught’, civil society members, social activists and business community has called for immediate ban on the sales of alcohol in the state like Gujarat, Bihar and Lakshadweep. Pro-alcohol ban groups in the state, particularly in Kashmir, argue that it will ruin the social fabric of the Muslim majority state.

Official figures of the excise department reveal that in 2012-13, estimated 5 crore bottles of liquor were consumed. The consumption of booze drinks in last fiscal year went upto 5.65 crore, thus consumption rate jumping by over 13 percent in last five 5 years.

Total of 27.2 crore liquor bottles, including Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), J&K special whisky (country liquor), beer and ready to drink (RTD) have been consumed by Bacchus lovers in Jammu and Kashmir from fiscal year 2012-13 to 2016-17.

The date further highlights that there has been a consistent increase in sale of liquor. In 2012-13, liquor consumption was 5 crore bottles, in 2013-14 it was 5.20 crore bottles, 2014-15 it was 5.43 crore bottles, in 2015-16 it was 5.75 crore bottles and in 2016-17 it was 5.65 crore

In Kashmir valley, the excise department recorded a sale of 11.50 lakh bottles of IMFL in 2014-15 in the Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal range, while it recorded an increase in the figure during the next financial year and went up to 15.29 lakh in 2015-16, the data reveals.

According to the excise data, beer turned out to be the favourite drink of the Kashmiris as over 52 lakh bottles were sold from March 2014 to November 2016 in the Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal range while a total of 40,729 bottles of RTD were sold in this range for the period.

Member of Kashmir Centre for Development and Social Studies (KCDS), Shakeel Qalandar said government should impose immediate ban on sale of liquor in the state.

“It would be prudent on the part of the government to ban its sale in the state. Government must not always see everything through the prism of revenue, but also take decisions which would safeguard our future generation,” he said.

Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan also demanded immediate ban on sale of liquor in the state. “As the figures of the excise department show that how booze trade is increasing, it should be cause of concern. Civil society including religious leaders must introspect and safeguard our future generation from this vice.”

A senior excise department official said that liquor sales generate huge revenue for the state. “During 2016-17, state earned Rs 570 crore revenue from the taxes collected from liquor dealers. However, the decision to impose ban on it lies with the state government.”

In the recently concluded Assembly session, the MoS Finance Ajay Nanda had opposed a bill seeking ban on liquor sale, saying that J&K is a tourist state and imposing ban on alcohol would have a ‘negative impact’ on inflow of the tourists.