Home International India imposes 70% ‘corona tax’ on alcohol to deter large crowds

India imposes 70% ‘corona tax’ on alcohol to deter large crowds

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Police baton-charged hundreds of people who had flocked to liquor shops when they opened on Monday for the first time.

NEW DELHI – Officials in India’s capital

imposed a special tax of 70% on retail liquor purchases from

Tuesday, to deter large gatherings at stores as authorities ease

a six-week lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the

coronavirus.

Taxes on alcohol are a key contributor to the revenue of

many of India’s 36 states and federal territories, most of which

are running short of funds because of the lengthy disruption in

economic activity caused by the virus.

Police baton-charged hundreds of people who had flocked to

liquor shops when they opened on Monday for the first time in a

relaxation of the world’s biggest lockdown, which is set to run

until May 17.

The Delhi state government announced the “special corona

fee” in a public notice late on Monday.

“It was unfortunate that chaos was seen at some shops in

Delhi,” said Arvind Kejriwal, the state’s chief minister.

“If we come to know about violations of social distancing

and other norms from any area, then we will have to seal the

area and revoke the relaxations there,” he added.

Other states, such as southern Andhra Pradesh, where people

also violated social distancing measures to queue up in their

hundreds for alcohol, also hiked prices.

The increases come as India reported 3,900 new infections on

Tuesday for its highest single day rise, taking the tally to

46,432. The death toll stood at 1,568, the health ministry said.

Health experts said the daily increase shows India remains

at risk despite a severe lockdown that has confined its

population of 1.3 billion to their homes since late March, with

all public transport halted and economic activity nearly frozen.

“The curve has not shown a downward trend. That is cause for

concern,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director of New Delhi’s

premier All-India Institute of Medical Sciences.

India’s average daily increase in cases has been 6.1 over

the past week, behind Russia and Brazil but higher than Britain,

the United States and Italy.

The biggest spikes were recorded in the western states of

Maharashtra, home to India’s commercial capital of Mumbai, and

Gujarat as well as Delhi. These densely populated urban centres

drive India’s economy, powered by armies of migrant workers.

Government officials said the lockdown had helped avert a

surge of infections that could have overwhelmed medical

services, however.

Now cases are doubling every 12 days, up from 3.4 days when

the lockdown began, said Lav Agarwal, a joint secretary in the

health ministry.

“Lockdown and containment are yielding results, the

challenge is now to improve on the doubling rate,” he added.

Reuters