BENGALURU: A discussion in the Legislative Council on the Supreme Court order banning liquor outlets and pubs along highways turned out to be a high-spirited one.
It saw members, including the CM, discuss the court order and the government’s move towards denotifying highways. From tips on tipples to wisecracks on whisky, the 40-minute long debate did not throw up any consensus but did leave members shaken and all stirred by their not-so-dry subject.
It was confession time for the CM, who while defending his government’s move to skirt the SC order by denotifying state highways, said he had tasted liquor but was not addicted to it. He added that it was practically impossible to implement a complete liquor ban. He was replying to BJP MLC M K Pranesh’s query objecting to the government move.
Another BJP member Ramachandra Gowda added some fizz to the debate with his one-liners, “Have beer without fear. If you have whisky after beer, it is risky.” Saravana of the JD(S), in keeping with his party’s alliance-hunting image, piped up, “Drinks make links.”
When Srikantegowda from JD(S) said one mugful of beer is good for health, Siddaramaiah countered, “You are a college principal. Is this what you teach your students?” Shanappa from the BJP had a smug answer: “There is a whisky brand by the name Teachers.”
While these sparklers may have brought the House down, some serious talk did take place too.
Siddaramaiah said he didn’t believe liquor ban will bring down consumption.
The CM cited how as part of a sub-committee during JH Patel’s tenure as CM, he visited many states where the ban was implemented, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
“Except Gujarat no other state could implement liquor ban. In Gujarat too, there is no dearth of people who drink. Their numbers have not come down,’’ he asserted.
Commenting also on H D Kumaraswamy’s tenure as CM, he said the state government made an attempt to ban liquor.
“But illicit liquor was sold in many interior places. We cannot stop people from drinking. And if we shut shops, thousands of people depending on it will be on the street,’’ he said.
Defending the denotification decision, the CM said that in Bengaluru, star hotels that serve liquor are located on national highways like Ballari Road but also fall under BBMP limits. “It is the civic agency which is maintaining this part of NH and not NHAI. Local municipalities are maintaining the roads, so we denotified them,’’ he said.
Objecting to this, BJP MLC Bhanu Prakash said there are 6,015 liquor shops on highways. “In the denotified roads, 858 km come under Town Panchayat. Every year, one kilometre of road gets Rs 1 crore as maintenance. If you denotify these highways, panchayats will not receive the amount,” he added.