Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

India state in alcohol crackdown

By Narayan Bareth
BBC News, Jaipur

Man with a drink
Strong drink is too easily available, the chief minister says

The chief minister of the Indian state of Rajasthan has said that the previous state government was wrong to promote "a culture of liquor".

Shri Ashok Gehlot said that the state had not discouraged young people from drinking. On Tuesday his government closed down 800 alcohol shops.

Mr Gehlot said the authorities would move to prevent "boys and girls going hand in hand" to pubs and clubs.

Alcohol policy was a prime issue during state assembly elections last year.

Mr Gehlot's Congress party accused the previous BJP government of opening too many alcohol outlets in the state, an accusation denied by the BJP.

"We will stop it," he told a news conference.

Mr Gehlot's comments come a day after his Congress government approved a new excise policy which reduces the number of liquor shops in the state.

The new policy was endorsed at cabinet meeting chaired by Mr Gehlot on Tuesday in the city of Jaipur. It stipulates that licence fees for hotels and bars serving alcohol are to be increased.

The state has 1,800 Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) outlets. Under the new policy, hundreds will be closed, in addition to 150 shops situated near religious places and educational institutions.

The state government also announced that 1% of the revenue earned through excise on alcohol would be spent on providing for the poor as well as rehabilitating families involved in making hooch, or illicit alcohol.

The authorities say that hooch claimed 23 lives in Rajasthan last month alone.

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