Govt. bans liquor Ads, with a plan to restart !

| 27 June 2001 17:40 IST

The battle between the Greens and the liquor industry is still on in Goa, on the issue of banning liquor advertising and promotion.

For the second time in last three years, the state government has given a commitment to the court to ban liquor advertising in the tourist state, but only on paper.

As cheapest available liquor is one of the major tourist attractions of the coastal state, the authorities are now planning to amend the Goa Excise Duty Act, 1964, within a week, permitting promotional activities.

As a first step towards it, the finance department has issued a notification, rescinding its earlier notification issued on 2 December 1997, allowing advertisement of liquor through words, monograms, logos etc, at least for seven days during major events like Carnival, Christmas and Food & Cultural Festival.

This notification was a reaction to the petition filed by Goa Foundation, challenging non-implementation of section 10A of the act, which totally prohibits liquor advertising in any manner. The authorities had to then even demolish liquor hoardings while the court had warned the newspapers about advertisements being published.

Since the court order was affecting major tourist attractions like Carnival, Christmas and Food Festival, the finance department had then issued a separate notification in 1997, on the eve of Christmas, allowing such advertising for seven days for special events.

But Goa Foundation approached the court once again, alleging that the '97 notification was in contravention to the act as it was issued without even amending the act. The authorities surrendered to the argument, agreeing to rescind the notification.

"We will now come out with fresh amendments within a week", states P S Reddy, the state excise commissioner. Banning liquor promotion locally, according to him, has no meaning when same products are being widely advertised locally, but through national newspapers and electronic media.

Being a tourist state having lowest possible excise duty, the state earns around 35 per cent of its revenue through liquor. In fact, breaking all the past records, the excise department has set its target this year at Rs 50 crore.

"I cannot help if the BJP government goes ahead with fresh amendments to allow liquor advertising, with the consent of all the legislators", states Adv Norma Alvares, representing Goa Foundation. "But they cannot act illegally", she adds.

Reddy however feels that only public education, and not such restrictions, can stop drinking habits. Legal prohibition has failed everywhere, he states, making it amply clear that liquor will continue flowing in Goa like water - courtesy the Bharatiya Janata Party government ruling the state.

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