This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. After Monday’s Chaos, Delhi Levies 70% Tax on Alcohol


This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. After Monday’s Chaos, Delhi Levies 70% Tax on Alcohol

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

A day after alcohol shops opened across the country, giving social media more meme fodder from the lockdown, state governments have started to realise the long lines aren’t really helping the social distancing cause.

Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of one of the most booze-friendly states in the country, has since decided that Delhi would impose a 70 per cent tax on all alcohol, starting Tuesday. He also warned that if social distancing wasn’t maintained at stores, he would be forced to shut them down.

Dubbed the “Special Corona Fee”, the new order also came with revised times for government liquor shops to stay open — from 9am to 6.30 pm. The state was forced to shut standalone liquor stores hours after opening them on Monday, after large crowds gathered outside, violating social distancing norms.

The Delhi government, which earns revenue of ₹5,000 crore from the sale of liquor, said that the new tax will boost the state’s revenue, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown. And, indeed, the amount of money we spend on alcohol is staggering, as seen with a single day’s statistics in Karnataka.

The government has also argued that the move would discourage people from crowding, which according to early reports from Delhi, doesn’t seem to have worked as expected.

On the other hand, the move has received a fair share of criticism, with some accusing Kejriwal of treating the people of Delhi “like an ATM”.

A few also pointed out that the middle and lower economic classes would suffer the most from this decision, while the privileged would, once again, be unaffected.

A journalist said that the tax came with the implication that it was “only the poor that create a nuisance” when it came to violating social distancing norms.

As expected, the announcement also led to a few jokes on social media…

As well as speculation that a similar tax may be imposed by other struggling states…

This speculation will no doubt continue through the day, as one thing is getting increasingly clear — as we enter phase III of the nation-wide lockdown, no one knows what to expect next. The future, as we’ve been informed in several ways, is uncertain.