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Good that the state allows liquor home delivery. But best do it via market-tested private sector apps

Delhi follows Maharashtra, Bengal and Odisha in allowing home delivery of liquor, obviously to shore up state finances. For all the railing against alcohol politicians frequently do, most recognise that taxes on it give state exchequers a high – excise duty on alcohol accounts for around 10-15% revenue of a majority of states. That’s why, when the national lockdown ended last year, some states allowed doorstep delivery of liquor, albeit in different formats. In Kolkata, private online delivery platforms take requests for alcohol orders, while Maharashtra allows retail shops in some areas to deliver locally. All these are perhaps better than opening liquor retail outlets in pandemic times – an option exercised by UP in select localities.

However, Delhi’s mode of delivery seems terribly inefficient – only one category of retail licence holders are allowed, and orders must come through a mobile app or an online web portal, both of which the government will presumably develop. This is a waste of government time, effort and resources. Government apps are not famous for easy user interfaces. Nor is it clear how the logistics of home delivery will be organised. For a city of Delhi’s size, and given its  potential demand, the government should smoothen the whole process by allowing all licensed liquor retailers to deliver home by roping in existing online delivery platforms in the private sector. Delivery will be efficient. Revenue will jump. And there will be no crowding at liquor outlets. That’s a policy any sensible person should raise a toast to.

On a broader note, home delivery of liquor should be allowed by every state that doesn’t have prohibition. And the facility must not lapse once the fear of Covid fades. Liquor retail norms are antiquated. Time to get some fizz into them.



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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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