SHIMLA: Circumventing an apex court ban on liquor vends along the highways, Himachal Pradesh has allowed liquor shops to operate in residential areas, aggrieved residents said on Friday.
Women's brigades across the state, especially in rural areas, have been demanding closure or shifting of these liquor vends that have come up close to the residential areas.
In a residential colony in Shoghi town, located along the national highway on the outskirts of the state capital, a liquor shop was opened in a house.
"We have petitioned to the Chief Minister (Virbhadra Singh) to relocate this liquor vend. But no action has been taken so far," Residents' Welfare Association Vice-President Brig (retd) B.S. Bajwa told IANS.
He said the women residents have stopped moving out in the locality late in the evening fearing harassment.
Echoing similar sentiments, veteran journalist Neena Malik, who has been staying in the residential colony developed by the Himachal Pradesh Housing and Urban Development Authority, said opening liquor shops in residential areas was a step towards destroying social peace.
"In this complex most of the residents are senior citizens. Now they are living in fear of getting robbed or even molested by the drunkards," she added.
Likewise, a liquor vend has been opened in Chaura Maidan here, a posh locality at the end of the Mall Road, where the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Army Training Command (ARTRAC) and the Assembly Speaker were staying.
The British-era Simla Sanitarium and Hospital, besides the Rajiv Gandhi Government Degree College, the Himachal Pradesh University Institute of Legal Studies and the plush The Oberoi Cecil hotel are also located in the Chaura Maidan area.
Naresh Thakur, an octogenarian residing in Chaura Maidan, said it was a pity to see the liquor shop and the hospital exist side-by-side.
He said the decision to shift the liquor shop from the highway to the residential area was proving to be a cure worse that the malady.
"We are trying to shift on priority those liquor shops that are operating from the residential areas that are densely populated," a senior officer with the Excise and Taxation Department told IANS.
The Cheuni panchayat in Seraj assembly constituency, the remotest in Mandi district with a population of over 1,600, took the lead in passing a resolution in February banning cigarettes, liquor and the playing of cards in its jurisdiction from the next fiscal.
Taking a cue, 15 nearby panchayats have also passed such resolutions.
"Despite passing the resolution by the panchayat, the government has allotted a liquor shop in Cheuni village and that too, within 25 metre radius of a school. This is a gross violation of the Supreme Court order," local activist and journalist Hem Singh Thakur told IANS over the phone.
Gram Panchayat head Indira Devi said she has filed a public suit in the high court to get relief.