In 2014, the state excise department had cracked down on websites offering home delivery of alcohol. This is because home delivery and online sale raises the chances of minors accessing alcohol and supply of duty-evaded and spurious liquor.
Liquor shops in the state had been shut down in the run up to the COVID-19 induced lockdown. However, relaxations were granted from May 4 onwards, leading to wine shops being gradually allowed to operate across Maharashtra. In Mumbai and cities in the metropolitan region, wine shops have been allowed to only home deliver liquor.
Dilip Gianani, Chairman, Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association, this enabling provision can be a supporting system for legal home deliveries and run concurrently with counter sales. He stressed that the system needed to be changed to introduce checks and balances to prevent underage drinking.
Gianani said at present, wine shops, which have an average margin of 8.10% on sales, were finding it difficult to deploy manpower and machinery for home deliveries, in addition to the threat of pilferage and problems in handling cash.
While Maharashtra sells around 3 crore bulk litres (BL) of country liquor per month, just 1.60 crore BL was consumed in May because of the flight of labour from cities and economic distress. Sales of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) dropped from 1.78 lakh BL per month to 1 crore BL. However, the sharpest fall is seen in the consumption of beer, which was just 1.24 crore BL in May compared to the average of 3.64 crore BL.
In the 2019-20 financial year, the state excise department earned revenues of Rs 15,428 crore against the Rs 17,977 crore target.