We Can’t Handle Opening of Liquor Shops. How the Hell Will India Lift the Lockdown?


We Can’t Handle Opening of Liquor Shops. How the Hell Will India Lift the Lockdown?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

India’s nationwide lockdown entered its third phase, or Lockdown 3.0 as it’s being called, and some decided to bring it in with an air of celebration. You see, Lockdown 3.0 came as a big respite for many after the announcement by the Home Ministry that except in containment areas, standalone liquor shops can re-open across the country. After one-and-a-half months of a dry quarantine, crowds flocked to stores selling alcohol across the country, seriously compromising social-distancing measures in many cases.

The sight of men tightly packed into a long queue raises serious questions about the safety issues surrounding the reopening of not just liquor shops, but the eventual reopening of public transport and public spaces.

Across the country, in major cities, customers lined up to get their first taste of booze in over a month.

In Delhi, queues stretched for hundreds of metres as buyers gathered outside liquor shops. In certain spots around the capital, the crowds became so unruly that the police had to resort to use of force to disperse the customers and close down the liquor shops, an NDTV report said.

In Mumbai, one of India’s worst-hit cities, long queues of dozens of customers were seen outside stories selling alcohol. In an incident similar to Delhi, a shop in Chembur had to be shuttered by the police after the crowd grew unmanageable, reported Mumbai Mirror.

Even while news reports highlighted the risks associated with the reopening of these liquor shops, the customers and owners did not grasp the gravity of the situation, instead displaying a festive air toward the proceedings.

In Bangalore, customers were seen performing a puja at the steps of a liquor shop, cracking open a coconut on the steps to mark the “auspicious” occasion.

Meanwhile, in UP’s Mirzapur, it was the shopkeepers’ turn to greet the customers’ return, as one did by greeting the men in his queue by showering flower petals on them – without gloves, make of that what you will.

The arguments against the reopening of liquor shops are many, including the most important one: preventing the spread of Covid-19. However, those who are in support of the move have cited that reopening liquor shops will provide a boost to the economy. The topic has already boosted the meme economy, with the internet rising to the occasion as always.

In any case, whether or not you view alcohol as an essential item to have during quarantine, it’s available in most states across the country, with a few exceptions, including Punjab and Haryana. Though judging by the conduct of the people flocking to liquor stores, it might not be that way for too long.