• Bihar liquor ban spikes economy in UP towns

    The ban on liquor consumption and the influx of tipplers from Bihar is spawning a parallel economy along the bordering districts of Uttar Pradesh that are seeing not just a boom in the sale of liquor, but also a sizeable jump in the trade of liquor accompaniments, including snacks, bottled water and soft beverages.

    “We are noticing an extraordinary rise in the demand for bottled water and soft drinks in plastic bottles from local distributors that supply in the Ballia, Ghazipur and Chandauli border areas.

    Over the past fortnight, sales have grown 20% when compared with figures for the whole month of April last year,” said Santosh Shukla, an east UP distributor of a leading cola company.

    Bottled water and soft beverage traders aren’t the only ones benefiting from the boom. The owners of small eateries and makeshift shops of ‘chakhna’ (food stuff consumed by tipplers along with liquor) too have reasons to feel ‘blessed’ for doing business in the vicinity of the liquor shops.

    Ramjatan took a break from serving up ‘tamatar chaat’ to busy guzzlers near the Naubatpur border liquor shops to speak to TOI.

    “Till March-end, we never returned home after clearing the total stock of food items brought on our thelas (handcart). But for the past 20 days, we have been having to arrange for extra stocks of tomatoes, potatoes and other edibles to meet growing demand,” he said. Among the other snack ‘thelas’ near the liquor shops at Naubatpur, puffed-grain sellers seemed to be the big crowd pullers, with sellers of egg-based food items doing brisk business as well.

    The Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and beer shops at Naubatpur have seen over 600% growth in business over the past three weeks, according to records with the UP excise department.

    Not everyone is all happy at the boom, though. Manmohan Gupta, who has been running a small shop that serves snacks, soft drinks and bottled water opposite the IMFL shop at the Bharauli border, is elated at the rise in sales at his kiosk, but says: “On the basis of the past 20 days’ experience, I feel that dhandha ab ganda ho gaya hai (the trade has now turned dirty).”

    “People coming in from Buxar (Bihar) are demanding chilled water bottles, but stocks have been running out fast. On expressing our inability to provide chilled bottles, they start quarrelling”, said Gupta. Shoots back Santosh from a neighbouring kiosk: “Ganda hai par dhanda hai, aur dhanda toh badha hai (though it has turned dirty, fact is that trade has grown).”

    According to some excise department officials, the IMFL and beer shops at the Bharauli border have posted 900% and 600% growth in business, respectively, between April 1 and 25.

    Traders in the area revealed that if chilled water and soft drink bottles were in demand for the dilution of liquor for immediate consumption, non-chilled bottles were being purchased to ferry liquor back across the border into Bihar-since carrying liquor bottles ran the high risk of being caught by excise department personnel or the police in Bihar. Robby Anderson Authentic Jersey

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