Srinagar: J&K government-run elite clubs in Srinagar appear to have become favourite haunts for liquor lovers as more than 25,000 bottles of different alcoholic beverages were consumed there in the last three years.
According to official figures, around 12, 000 bottles of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) were consumed in the Amar Singh Club (ASC) from 2011 to 2013, 2,500 bottles in the Kashmir Golf Club (KGC) and 1,139 bottles in the Royal Spring Golf Club (RSGC).
During the same period, nearly 10,000 bottles of beer were consumed in these clubs—6,347 bottles in the ASC, 3,597 bottles in the KGC and 292 bottles in the RSGC.
There are six clubs in the state, and the Press Club Jammu (PCJ) has emerged as the highest liquor consuming club as 24,138 bottles of IMFL, 19,954 bottles of beer and 2,068 bottles of Ready To Drink (RTD) were consumed during the last three years.
The PCJ has been followed by ASC Jammu with 15,449 bottles of IMFL, 13,341 bottles of beer and 363 bottles of RTD, and Jammu Club with 24,138 bottles of IMFL, 19,954 bottles of beer and 2,064 bottles of RTD.
It is mostly politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and mediapersons who avail membership of these clubs. The clubs are, however, open to non-members also.
According to the data, during the past three years the state has consumed 26144.36 lakh bottles of different beverages, with 82.36 lakh bottles consumed in the Kashmir Range—38.58 lakh bottles of IMFL, 0.31 lakh bottles of JK desi whisky and 43.47 lakh bottles of beer.
Besides Kashmir Range, these beverages have been consumed in Jammu City South Range, Jammu City North Range, Jammu-Kathua Range, Doda-Udhampur Range and Rajouri-Poonch Range.
The state has generated an amount of Rs 153.86 crore as excise revenue (civil) from the sale of liquor during the last three years with Kashmir Range generating Rs 9.56 crore.
During current fiscal year, the government has generated Rs 37.72 crore as excise revenue from liquor sale in the state with Kashmir Range generating Rs 2.57 crore, according to the data.
During last few years, there have been demands from various social, religious and political organisations against the sale and consumption of alcohol in the Muslim-majority J&K.
However, during last Budget Session of State Legislative Assembly, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said since J&K was a tourist state, it was “impossible to ban sale and consumption of alcohol in the state.”
“Jammu and Kashmir is a tourist state and we have to keep in view the requirements of the tourists,” Rather had said. He also said that imposing a ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in the state would prove “counterproductive and result in clandestine smuggling of liquor in the state.” He said that sale of alcohol generates revenue of Rs 637 crore.
The minister, however, said he would “personally support” a ban on liquor in the state if the lawmakers introduce a bill in the House.