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The state government recently announced the permissible age for liquor consumption as 25 years. But this has been the rule according to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 for some years now
The Maharashtra government's recent announcement of the permissible age limit for liquor consumption is a classic case of 'old wine in a new bottle'.
According to the so-called 'new policy', the permissible age for liquor consumption is 25 years, while those who have crossed the age of 21 will be allowed to consume beer. Wine has been excluded from the category of liquor. The state cabinet cleared this proposal under the new de-addiction policy.
Since the announcement, the policy is being talked about in the media. Youngsters who have been interviewed about the policy have expressed their displeasure over the age provision. However, they seem to be unaware that the age stipulation (of 25 years) has been in existence for some time now under the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949.
Moneylife reported on 13 May 2010 how, despite the permissible drinking age at 25, bars, pubs and wine shops have notices declaring that alcohol would not be sold to anyone below the age of 21. (Read, "Alcohol laws in Maharashtra could drive you to drink".)
According to the law, in Maharashtra a liquor permit is necessary to purchase, possess, transport, or consume liquor. It says that "any person above the age of 25 years is eligible to obtain the liquor permit for preservation and maintenance of his health. Purchase and drinking without a liquor permit is an offence under the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949."
The question that arises is, why has the government made it mandatory now, when there already exists a law that clearly states the permissible age for consumption of alcohol?
Consumer activists question the viability of this policy, as guzzlers have consistently flouted the law, and this is evident from the number of under-age alcohol drinkers.
An officer of the state excise department, speaking to Moneylife, said that "the permissible age limit has always been there, though there was little awareness about it."
Doubtless, it is a disappointment for many youngsters who have a preference for hard liquors. "First, they increased the prices, and now they have increased the permissible age limit. I enjoy my drinks and am capable of handling myself. Instead, much larger issues should be addressed," said a 23-year-old freelancer.
Moneylife has sent a message to the chief minister of Maharashtra, asking whether the department was aware that there already existed a law on the permissible age for liquor consumption. There was no reply up to the time of filing this report.
According to documents procured by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyer wrote several letters to the Prime Minister, informing him about the methods Mr Kalmadi adopted to collect more funds than sanctioned under different heads. But the letters were practically ignored
Yesterday, we wrote how Suresh Kalmadi, the former chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games 2010 (CWG), had his way in all matters and how the warning letters Mani Shankar Aiyer, the former minister for youth affairs and sports, wrote to the prime minister were ignored. According to documents procured by Subhash Chandra Agrawal, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Mr Aiyer, in his letters to the PM, specifically wrote about Mr Kalmadi's method of inflating budgets and extracting funds under various labels from the union and state governments.
In a letter to the prime minister on 8 March 2007, Mr Aiyer wrote, "He (Kalmadi) was initially sanctioned the Rs2 crore which he had asked for. He has already supplemented this with a further sum of Rs3 crore from CM, NCT Delhi. He is now seeking a further sum of Rs3 crore from the Government of NCT Delhi. He wants us to top it up with another Rs2 crore from the Government of India (GoI), making a total of Rs10 crore. Thus against his initial projection of a requirement of Rs2 crore on pre-bid expenditure, he has upped the ante to five times the initial figure. This is of a pattern with everything else connected with his involvement in mega sports events."
This shows how Mr Kalmadi was collecting funds from both the government of NCT Delhi and the union government. Mr Kalmadi cited increasing competition from other countries, especially Korea, to bid for the upcoming Asian Games 2014. Mr Aiyer said, "He (Kalmadi) was unable to give me any details of how he has spent or proposes to spend the additional Rs8 crore he has sought, or is seeking to push our bid through. I told him that in all my four decades of experience as a diplomat, I could not recall such large sums of money being spent on pre-bid exercises."
This was not the only instance where Mr Kalmadi inflated the projected figures. He did this again for a project to provide special training for talented Indian athletes through the Sports Authority of India (SAI). In the same letter addressed to the prime minister, Mr Aiyer wrote: "I also found that as against SAI's estimate that about Rs300 crore would be required for the special training of talented athletes, to increase our medal tally at the Commonwealth Games 2010, Kalmadi's projection has now been raised from Rs1,000 crore to Rs1,500 crore! Once again, there is no detailed justification."
Similarly, according to other documents procured by Mr Agrawal through an RTI application, the estimated budget for the international zone, games village and sports infrastructure was Rs325 crore with a provision of plus or minus 25%. However, it was shown as Rs770 crore, a whopping increase of 137%, in an undated current estimate file.
Mr Aiyer forwarded a detailed analysis of the financial, environmental and social costs of organising mega sports events like the CWG and the proposed Formula One Grand Prix, prepared by Anorbotto (Dunu) Roy, director of Delhi-based Hazards Centre. The former sports minister also forwarded an analytical note prepared by the then sports secretary, SK Arora, to the prime minister. Shaleen Kabra, then director at the prime minister's office (PMO) prepared a note on the analysis of Mr Roy and Mr Arora.
The note, written on 31 October 2007, says: "The whole issue of Commonwealth Games cost and benefits is repeatedly coming in focus due to serious differences between the (Sports) Ministry and the Organising Committee-while the Ministry insists on transparency and accountability, the OC wants to preserve its fiefdom. The latest letters of the Minister of Y&S (Aiyer), one suggesting some alternatives and another one suggesting a Minister for State for the purpose, are relevant in this context. The Cabinet Secretariat had reported resolution of the issues but that is not so."
However, on the same day, Sanjay Mitra, joint secretary in the PMO, put a remark on the note, which reads, "No further action is required on this."
Mr Kalmadi had his way in other things as well. Through the intervention of the prime minister, Mr Kalmadi successfully included his man as permanent special invitee in the Committee of Secretaries (COS) set up for the implementation of decisions related to organisation of CWG. He also kept the sports secretary, who was member of the executive board of the OC, away from the board meeting.
While the sports ministry was of the opinion that the OC of CWG, as a public authority falls under the purview of the RTI Act, and had asked the OC to appoint a Central Public Information Office and an Appellate Authority, ignoring the advice of the ministry, the OC filed a petition before the Delhi High Court.
In a letter dated 19 March 2008, Mr Aiyer informed the PMO about the incident about declaring the OC as a public authority under the RTI Act, citing advice from the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice. The note written by a private secretary at the PMO reads: "Discussed with PM. No further action seems required in PMO at this stage."
(This is the concluding part of a two-part series. Read the first part: "Kalmadi's 'Cartoons': How Mani Shankar's red flags in 2007 about Kalmadi's dictatorship in CWG were ignored - I"