Gurugram is notorious for its innumerous liquor stores, littered across the entire region. New liquor stores are being opened throughout the region at an alarming rate. However, what is truly disturbing about these liquor stores is that they are emerging dangerously close to schools.
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A perfect example for this disturbing trend in urban Gurugram is the opening of a liquor store in extremely close proximity to the Shri Ram School Aravali in DLF Phase 4. The Shri Ram School is one of the premiere schools in India and has 1500 students attending the school. While the store is yet to open, many residents in nearby areas as well as parents of children who attend the school are justifiably concerned.
“The liquor store has been constructed very close to the shared gate of the residential area and the school,” says Shruti Shaukeen, a resident of Regency Park II in DLF Phase 4. She adds that the gate is the main access point to the school as children are dropped and picked up from this point. As a result, the liquor store presents a critical threat to the safety of children. Shruti also stated that there was no need for a liquor shop to open in the area as there were already two liquor stores operating in the nearby Galleria market.
The concerns for safety were also expressed by other residents and parents. Jugnu Almeida, whose children attend the Shri Ram School, says that the “opening of the liquor store will bring alcoholics to an area that is primarily a residential area for families.” Safety of the children, especially girls is definitely under threat by the opening of the store. Aneesha Sood, another parent, highlighted the absurdity of the government’s stand on safety, saying that the government was more “concerned about the safety of cows rather than the safety of children.”
Some parents, like Shreya Singhal and Jugnu Almeida, have expressed concerns about the corrupting influence the store would have on the older students of the school. With a liquor store in such close proximity to the school, the authorities have made access to alcohol even more easier than it was previously.
According to the official guidelines outlined in the Excise Policy of Haryana State 2017-18, the regulations regarding establishment of liquor vendors states the following:
“No person to whom a license for retail liquor outlet is granted can establish the same on such premises as is situated at a distance of less than 150 meters from the main gate of a recognized school/ College/ main bus stand and a place of worship. However, Excise Commissioner can relax such distance for the location of retail liquor outlet from 150 meters to 75 meters on the recommendations of the Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner (Excise).”
The distance of 150 meters, or 75 meters in special cases, is surprising as the Supreme Court had ordered that liquor stores were banned from being established within 500 meters of a highway. Aneesha Sood termed this ban as a sham if the government still allows liquor stores to open in such close proximity.
All the people who spoke to NewsMobile questioned the authorities and their priorities. Anuradha Sur highlighted that Gurugram had a distinct lack of police booths and yet multiple liquor stores were present in every neighbourhood. Besides, the authorities need to clearly define the regulations regarding liquor store establishment while also adding that the authorities need to take a more holistic view of this issue and seriously consider the consequences of careless approval of liquor licenses. “It is high time the state govt stops benefitting out of this on the cost of our children,” says Rasika Jain, a parent whose children attend the Shri Ram School Aravali.
Dr. Sanjiv Saigal, Director of Hepatology at Medanta The Medicity, Gurgaon says that “alcohol is one of the leading causes of liver diseases in India. Exposure of school children to alcohol during their growing phase in life will be hugely detrimental, and any liquor vending shop near a school should be strongly discouraged.”
Such instances have also come to light from other districts and there is a need for an urgent review on the liquor policy of the state. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar needs to intervene in this case and urgently focus on how his bureaucrats have been ignoring public good by these ill conceived moves.