Liquor ban: Bengaluru's M G Road is not a national highway but pubs may still shut down
Whose road is it anyway? Thanks to the confusion about whether M G Road, Brigade Road, St Mark's Road and Residency Road in Bengaluru are deemed National Highways or not, the Central business district may run dry starting July 1. While the government calls these roads National Highway, the NHAI has said that they do not come under their purview.
'Not highways,' says NHAI
The National Highways Authority of India in a letter addressed to Excise inspector of Ashok Nagar range dated 6/4/2017 has confirmed that these roads are not under its jurisdiction. The letter confirms that according to the records of NHAI, the roads are not National highways and come under the state purview. Despite the letter confirming that the roads do not come under the NHAI purview, the state government is asking the centre to denotify these roads adding to the confusion.
The heart of the city, Central Business District, is also home to close to 100 pubs, bars and liquor outlets. While excise licences of liquor outlets in the rest of the city are being renewed, the excise department has refused to renew licences of pubs and bars on these four stretches. The Supreme Court has ordered a ban on selling liquor within 500 meters of highways. Despite being in the heart of the city, M G Road, Brigade Road, St Mark's Road and Residency Road have been marked as National highways according to BBMP records.
State government points fingers at centre
The BBMP, as well as the excise department, maintain that the roads are deemed National Highways. Despite a letter of clarification from the NHAI, no changes have been made to the state records. Liquor sales in CBD area is an average Rs 5 crore on a daily basis. In 2016-17, the excise department had earned a little over Rs 7,000 crore from Bengaluru Urban and CBD was a huge contributor.
According to records from BBMP and Excise department, the road from Basaveswara Circle, passing through Raj Bhavan and MG Road till Trinity Circle, before reaching Old Madras Road, is a national highway. The road from Town Hall to Hosur Road, passing through JC Road, is another highway. With different record books giving contradictory information, bar and pub owners on CBD road are a concerned lot.
In Karnataka, the cycle to renew licences is between June 1 and July 1. With less than a week for Supreme Court order banning the sale of liquor on highways kicking in, owners now fear being forced to shut shop.