INDIA ABROAD April 21, 2017 30 INDIA
By Megha Bahree
and Bhuvan Bagga
— GURGOAN, India
hen Shailja Singh
headed to her
favourite bar for a
post-work beer this
week she found it
shut, victim of a
Supreme Court ruling that has
stopped India’s burgeoning alco-
hol and leisure industries in their
Thousands of liquor outlets
were forced to close on April 1
after the order, which barred the
sale of alcohol within a 500-
metre (500-yard) range of a highway.
The ruling was meant to curb
drink driving on India’s roads,
the world’s deadliest, but has
also shut down many bars,
restaurants and hotels that serve
tourists and office workers like
Fortunately for the 23-year-
old, only half the bar-and restau-rant-filled area in Gurgaon, a
satellite city of New Delhi, is
In a sign of the ruling’s arbitrary impact, the bars that fall
just outside the 500-metre range
are open, meaning she won’t
have to go far to get a drink.
But for the businesses affected, the problem is not so easily
“This is one of the most
regressive steps that I’ve seen,”
said one investor in a pub forced
to go dry.
“The prime minister is talking
about improving the ease of
doing business. But first tell us
can we do business to begin
with? What are we telling foreign
investors ; overnight your
investments can go?” said the
investor, who asked not to be
No beer at Beer Cafe
India’s expanding middle class
has made it a sparkling market
for the alcohol industry.
In 2016 India alcohol sales
were worth $40 billion, making it
the eighth largest market by
It is expected to grow by six
percent on average annually for
the next four years, according to
a Euromonitor International esti-
mate. “The liquor players, the
tourism industry, they all had a
strategy in place when they set
up their businesses and then this
verdict came in,” said an analyst
at a Mumbai brokerage who
asked not be named.
“This was completely unex-
pected and they will have to
Share prices of listed alcohol
makers have already been hit.
United Spirits, which makes
Black Label whisky and Smirnoff
vodka in India, saw its shares fall
by around nine per cent on the
Bombay Stock Exchange in the
days immediately after the ban,
despite a rising market.
Hotel and bar operators have
also been affected.
Shahira Khan, assistant brand
manager at The Beer Cafe chain
of bars, said business was struggling.
“Earlier on normal weekdays
we would get around 200 people
each day. On weekends, around
250 people would walk in. Now
we are hardly getting anyone,”
she told AFP.
“After all, why would people
come in? There is no beer at The
Staff at a luxury hotel in
Jaipur, a popular tourist destina-
tion in northern India, said
they’d had several cancellations
after they were forced to stop
selling alcohol because the prop-
erty falls within 500 metres of a
The manager of the Chokhi
Dhani said one group of Russian
tourists were incensed when
they were told they couldn’t get
“We tried telling them that it
was a court order and we
couldn’t do anything about it but
they were obviously not
pleased,” hotel manager Nupur
Jain told AFP.
“They complained about how
it spoiled all their plans and that
they’d come there to have a good
State governments and entrepreneurs have begun finding creative ways around the 500-metre
Some states like Punjab have
begun reclassifying highways as
local roads to escape the ban,
according to media reports.
Meanwhile some shopping
malls and bar complexes are
reportedly rerouting customers
to a different entrance to
increase their official distance
from the road.
India has the world’s deadliest
roads with nearly 150,000 people
killed in 2015, according to the
ministry of road transport and
highways. Of those, 6,755 deaths
were due to drunk driving.
The government has proposed
more stringent sanctions for
drunk drivers including fines of
10,000 ($154) and a jail term.
For the angry pub investor
whose business has been wiped
out, that is the solution.
“Instead of saying the law will
be more stringent on anyone
caught driving drunk, you’re saying let’s not sell alcohol. This is
like saying there are rapists out
there so women should not go
out,” he said.
“What kind of a society are we
— NEW DELHI
ndia on Friday overturned
a travel ban on a contro-
versial politician who
attacked a flight steward with
his sandal after being refused a
business class seat.
Ravindra Gaikwad made
national headlines after
footage emerged in March of
the Shiv Sena politician repeatedly striking a steward aboard
an Air India flight.
He later admitted to whacking the 60-year-old steward
roughly two dozen times with
his sandal during the altercation over seating on a flight
from Pune to New Delhi.
Gaikwad was forced to take
trains after the airline filed a
police complaint and banned
him from its flights, prompting
other airlines to follow suit.
But the ban was overturned
Friday after the civil aviation
ministry asked that the airline
consider Gaikwad’s recent
“The ban placed by Air India
on Mr. Gaikwad has, therefore,
been lifted with immediate
effect,” airline spokesman G.P.
Rao said in a written statement.
“Air India, however, remains
committed to ensure that its
employees are not assaulted
and neither misbehaved with
by any passenger and would
always take strong action to
preserve the dignity of its
employees at all times.”
The hot-headed MP had ini-
tially refused to accept fault,
prompting outrage in India’s
lower house Thursday when he
demanded the ban be lifted.
Gaikwad even compared his
predicament with prejudice to
that endured by Mahatma
Gandhi more than a century
ago. India’s independence icon
and most famous pacifist was
ejected from a first-class train
carriage in British South Africa,
famously spurring his quest for
Gaikwad last month had to
make the nearly 1,600 kilome-
tres ( 1,000 miles) journey to his
hometown in western
Maharashtra state by train after
an airline cancelled his ticket.
The decision to overturn the
ban was interpreted by some as
the government caving to protect one of its own.
“Shiv Sena MP Ravindra
Gaikwad is now free to fly.
Wish the central government
had shown some spine,” one
Twitter user wrote.
Government Overturns Flight Ban on
Sandal-whacking Shiv Sena Politician
A Booze Ban
In this photograph taken on April 7, closed pubs
and restaurants affected by a liquor ban are seen
in a neighborhood in Gurgaon on the outskirts of
The ruling was meant to curb drink driving
on India’s roads, the world’s deadliest