Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray on Thursday demanded that the state government should drop "moral issues" and permit liquor shops and restaurants to resume forthwith to enable it earn badly-needed revenues for its near-empty coffers.
In a letter to his cousin and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the MNS chief said that since March 18, the state is in lockdown, first till March 31, then till April 14 and now extended to May 3, with no certainty when it will be lifted.
Raj Thackeray said that in such times, there is no harm in keeping this option (wine shops) open since it's not intended to cater to the needs of the alcohol consumers but to start generating income for the government.
"The excise duty generated for the state via liquor amounts to Rs 41.66 crore daily, or Rs. 1,250 crore monthly and around Rs 14,000 crore yearly," he pointed out.
In view of the 35 days of lockdown till now and future extensions, the loss of revenue from this sector can be calculated till now and future losses that might happen.
"It's not that there was a liquor ban in our state and we are asking to remove that. Prior to lockdown, the wine shops were open. The state government should not try to get caught in some moral issues at such a crucial time and take the necessary action," Raj urged Uddhav.
His statement came a couple of days after Health Minister Rajesh Tope made an open-ended statement that there should be no problems in permitting liquor shops provided they follow social distancing and other norms.
The MNS cautioned that this issue is pertaining not just to Maharashtra but also all other states since when and how much Central assistance will come is uncertain.
"The need of the hour is to be economically self-reliant and this solution needs to be taken up seriously," said Raj Thackeray.