After two months of closure due to COVID-19 lockdown, liquor shops reopened in parts of the union territory on Monday with tipplers eagerly waiting in long queues to get their favourite booze.
As wine shops here and Karaikal region opened the shutters, at several places owners performed poojas, broke coconuts and burnt camphor in front of their outlets for good business.
Earlier, the Excise Department issued an order allowing resumption of the business after Lt Governor Kiran Bedi approved a COVID-19 special excise duty on all varieties of liquor, revenue from sale of which had been a major source of income for the UT for decades.
The special excise duty has been imposed as Bedi was keen price of liquor in the UT be brought on par with that of in Tamil Nadu in a bid to avert influx of people from the neighbouring state which may pose a risk of infection.
Puducherry is the latest to allow liquor sales since various lockdown relaxations came into force during the fourth phase.
Serpentine queues were seen outside the shops at least half an hour before the commencement of sales at 10 a.m. Special barricades were erected outside the shops to regulate the crowd while thrust was on strict adherence to social distancing norms and wearing of face masks.
It was a mix of young and old people as booze-lovers lined up to get their hands on the liquor bottles braving the summer heat.
A tippler expressed relief at being able to get liquor after so long, adding he had suffered some issues due to non- availability of it during the lockdown.
"I managed it through stong willpower. I am happy now to get my quota now," the man said.
But the move to reopen liquor shops has not gone down well with several others.
A woman who works as a domestic help is worried that her husband, who underwent treatment for problems due to addiction to liquor, might resume taking alcohol.
"I am worried that he would resume taking the liquor to the detriment of his health besides frittering away the hard- earned income," she said.
The government has permitted shops to do business from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
As of now, Mahe and Yanam regions (enclaves of Puducherry in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh respectively) have not not been granted permission to reopen the shops as the administration is closely watching the development in the neighbouring states there.
The union territory government is said to have suffered a loss of around Rs 80 crores in excise sector per month during the lockdown and this had dried up its coffers.
The V Narayanasamy-led Congress government has been at loggerheads with Lt Governor Bedi over various issues. But, it accepted her proposal to sell the liquor at a price on par with Tamil Nadu.
"If our pricing is less than Tamilnadu's, it will possibly open the floodgates for customers to rush here from neighbouring states and it will be a risky scenario particularly in the current context of the pandemic," PWD and Excise Minister A Namassivayam had told PTI on Sunday.