Chaos at liquor shops, fuel gets more expensive

The first day of India’s lockdown 3.0 ended with a lot of drama. Serpentine queues outside liquor shops stole the day’s headlines with the Delhi government ordering the levy of a 70% “special corona tax” on alcohol. All eyes were on the repercussions of the move by the state government, but it turned out to be an anti-climax. After the unending queues at liquor shops overwhelmed the Delhi Police on the first day, the force decided not to allow most liquor shops to open in the national capital on the second day. Many hopefuls had lined up since 8-8:30 in the morning. Minutes before the shops were to open, the police came swooping in to announce the shops would not open. Arguments broke out but they were soon quelled. Areas like Laxmi Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Vasant Vihar, East of Kailash and many others saw dispiriting scenes like these. In some areas the police closed the shop after about half an hour since their opening. In the handful of far-flung areas in the capital that saw liquor shops opening, the scenes were a carbon copy of the Monday.

Huge queues, complete flouting of social distancing and chaos at the counter.   Later in the day, the Delhi government wrote to the Police Commissioner asking him to allow the shops to open. That too didn’t lead to much change on the ground. The sudden and unannounced closing of liquor shops left many heartbroken. Many in Laxmi Nagar, where there are two government liquor shops right next to the Delhi Metro station, had stationed themselves within the eyeshot of the closed shutters even at mid-afternoon. Whenever they saw a person going near the store, these eager individuals would come running from corners. “Lagta hai aaj nahi khulega (Looks like it won’t open today),” they said to each other. Meanwhile, the citizens of Delhi were in for another blow. The state decided to increase value-added tax (VAT) on fuel in the national capital.

Petrol prices in Delhi rose to ₹71.26 a litre as against ₹69.59 per litre while diesel prices climbed to ₹69.39 a litre as against ₹62.29. The VAT on petrol was hiked to 30% from 27% while VAT on diesel was almost doubled to 30% from 16.75%. For citizens, some respite came in the form of AC service person nel being finally allowed to come to their homes. As temperatures across northern India touched 40°C, the new-age urban Indian was desperate to see his cooling units working. Domestic help such as maids, drivers and cleaners have been allowed to go to work, however, their commute remains a hurdle. The myriad residents’ welfare associations have been given the right to take a call on allowing in outsiders. Certain other activities have also been allowed in Delhi with restrictions: Movement of individuals and vehicles for permitted activities with a maximum of two persons (besides the driver) on four-wheelers but no pillion rider two-wheelers.

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