With about 2 crore population, Delhi is one of the biggest liquor markets in India. It is also ‘home’ to a huge floating population from the neighbouring states and a halt capital for Indians from all over the country. Alcohol is in high demand in Delhi and a major source of income for the government.

The Delhi Cabinet on Monday approved a new excise policy, announcing a serious of changes focused on the sale and consumption of liquor. The most important announcement was the lowering of the minimum age for consumption of liquor to 21 years from 25 years.

But Delhi had an excise policy that was framed in 2009. Since then, the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) took away a number of articles out of the excise kitty. The 21st-century generation was not queuing up at a liquor shop yet. Alcohol was still somewhat restricted. Delhi needed an overhaul of its excise policy.

In its third term, the Arvind Kejriwal government constituted a three-member panel led by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia with Kailash Gehlot and Satyendra Jain as members to formulate the new excise policy. It was adopted on Monday by the Kejriwal government.

What the Delhi government’s GoM suggested?

Registration of brands: The panel recommended different registration criteria for different brands of liquor. It would depend on the pricing and sales figures outside of Delhi.

For a whiskey to be registered in Delhi, its retail price should be over Rs 601. For brands selling whiskey at a lower price, they need to meet the sale-eligibility criterion.

The whiskey brands selling at lower than Rs 601 in retail should have sold at least 1 lakh cases in at least five states other than Delhi to get registered in Delhi. These five states should a stronger IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) industry than Delhi. Additionally, the whiskey brands should a sales figure in excess of 10 lakh cases across the country in the past one year including the sale through the Canteen Stores Department (CSD).

For rum and vodka brands, the panel said registration does not require a sales figure if its price is above Rs 501 in retail. For a lower price, the brands should have a sales figure of over 10,000 cases in five states with higher IMFL industry compared to Delhi. They should have sold at least 1 lakh cases including the CSD sale for registration.

In the case of beer, no sales figure is not a criterion if it is priced above Rs 150 per bottle in Delhi. For lower priced beer brands, the registration criteria include a sales figure of 5 lakh in five other states if it lager beer — alcohol strength up to 5 per cent — and 10 lakh if it is strong beer, having alcohol strength of over 5 per cent.

Brandy and gin brands require no sales figures for registration in Delhi.

Increase in licence fee: The panel recommended a hike in liquor vend licence fee from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 75 lakh a year.

Vend allocation system: The policy of auto renewal of liquor vends’ licences was dropped. Vends will now be allotted by lottery restricting one individual’s maximum allotment to two vends. Sisodia said the Delhi government would not run any of liquor shop. Currently, 60 per cent of Delhi’s liquor vends are run by the government.

Number of liquor shops: The number of liquor vends to increase from existing 720 to 916. It is, however, fewer than comparable metro cities of Bengaluru (1794) and Mumbai (1190). However, Sisodia on Monday said, “No new liquor shop would be opened in Delhi.”

Drinking age: The permissible drinking age lowered from 25 to 21 in Delhi. In Mumbai, hard liquor is not allowed for those under 25 but it allows anybody above 21 to consume wine and beer. In major global cities, New York allows those above 21 to consume liquor while London has a permissible age limit at 18.

Timings: Bars and pubs to remain open till 3 am.

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