Long wait, prohibitive price fail to deter Andhra tipplers

Vijayawada: Undeterred by 75% hike in liquor prices, thousands of people continued to stand in serpentine queues to buy liquor across Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday. The police had a hectic time in controlling the surging crowds and ensuring social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. People gathered outside wine shops even before they opened for the day.
Heavy turnouts were witnessed outside liquor outlets in Vizag city, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Rajahmundry, Tirupati, Nellore and other cities and towns and many rural areas in the state. Liquor shops did not function in Vijayawada and Guntur as they are classified as red zones.
At places people were seen in queues right from 8 am though shops were scheduled to open at 11 am. However, due to change in tax structure and updation of computer data, shops opened only at 3 pm. While some braved the hot summer sun and stood in line, others put their belongings to save their place. Some in Gannavaram in Vijayawada put empty liquor bottles to save their place in the queue.
A senior excise official said that the government had issued a GO on increased liquor prices on Tuesday afternoon, thus delaying the reopening of shops.
For the second day on Tuesday, social distancing norms were thrown to the wind. Many people were seen without masks. “I have waited from 8 am in front of the outlet to buy one full bottle (750 ml) of whiskey but the shop opened at 3.30 pm and finally I managed to buy the Sterling Reverse B10 (750 ml) bottle at Rs 2,000 at 4.30 pm,” said V Vasmi, a resident of MVP Colony in Vizag city.
Of the total 3,468 liquor outlets in the state, 1,123 liquor outlets in Covid-19 containment zones remained closed while the remaining 2,345 outlets functioned.
At a few places tipplers followed social distancing rules and were seen wearing face masks while standing in the queues but in many places, lockdown norms were not followed despite repeated appeals by the police.
“We have no orders to lathicharge on the tipplers who ignored the norms,” said a police officer.
In Visakhapatnam the services of government teachers were sought for crowd management in front of liquor outlets. The government came under criticism from various quarters for deploying teachers to control the tipplers.
Vizag district education officer B Lingeswara Reddy told reporters that the police requested the education department for Covid-19 related works. A total of 600 teachers came forward. Some teachers were deployed near liquor outlets on Monday, he added.
However, the district collector on Tuesday relieved the teachers from Covid-19 related duties following criticism from activists and teachers.

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