Govardhan, 2017.06.20 (VT): For many, it is a matter of great shame that the government of this fine country allows and even promotes alcohol shops in holy places. One such place is the holy Govardhan Hill, where alcohol shops can be found in the lanes adjoining the Govardhan parikrama marg.
Now the District Magistrate of Mathura, Mr. Arvind Malappa Bangari wants to remove the liquor shops around parikrama marg. But unfortunately it will not be so easy, as the Excise Department is putting up a fight.
The District Magistrate was inspired to remove the shops after meeting with Govardhan locals to discuss the upcoming Mudiya Puno (Guru Purnima) festival. During the meeting, the local people expressed outrage at the presence of the liquor shops, saying such shops attract the wrong type of crowd to Govardhan.
“After big festival days, you find liquor bottles everywhere. Some people have no respect for Giriraj Ji. They only come here to drink and party in the name of parikrama. Why does the government support such idiots by putting liquor shops near parikrama marg?” said Premwati, resident of Anyor village.
The Excise Department argues that there are no alcohol shops directly on the parikrama marg, and that whatever shops exist are far from the starting point of the parikrama. It is unclear what the distance of the liquor shops from the starting point of the parikrama has to do with the matter. But one may note that there are multiple liquor shops located between the bus stand and the parikrama starting point at Mansi Ganga.
Local residents dismiss the Excise Department’s argument, saying that the alcohol shops are easily accessible from the parikrama marg, and this accessibility creates a genuine safety hazard for pilgrims.
This is not the first time the wishes of the Brajwasis have clashed with the Excise Department’s agenda. Taking just one example: in 2015 an illegal wine shop in Chaitanya Vihar, within Vrindavan’s dry-zone, was given a license to operate by the Excise Department. Local residents torched the shop in anger, withdrawing only after Mr. Sanjay Yadav, the Excise Officer, appeared personally on the scene and promised to cancel the shop’s license.
Many in Braj would like to see alcohol fully banned, but it seems unlikely considering the boost that would give to the illegal liquor business, and the huge amount of revenue legal sale of alcohol brings in to the State government.
The UP Excise Department’s projected income for the 2016-17 fiscal year was Rs 19,250 crore (almost 3 billion US dollars).
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