Jammu, February 03: On one side, the department of state tourism is trying its best to develop the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a favourite tourist destination of the country while on the other, the state government has made this bizzarre decision of placing a ban tourists entering the state with alcohol.
Not just the ban, there is a three-year jail term that can be invited by a person for violation of the ban.
This blanket ban comes as a surprise and reeks of a strong collusion between liqour traders and excise department in J&K. It is all too well known that the liquor in J&K is more expensive than other neighbouring states and as such tourist coming into the state often carry liquor with them.
This means problems for the already ailing tourism industry and if the blanket ban is infact the result of liquor traders’ lobby pushing the excise department, there are darker days ahead for tourism in J&K.
There maybe another defence used in the coming days to support this ban wherein making J&K a liquor free state may be shown as the intent. However, a blanket ban comes across as just too rash. If the state has to be made liquor-free, then it has to start from within first and then barring the entry of liquor from outside.
This imposition of blanket ban on tourists carrying liquor from outside the state has come as a shocker for everyone in and outside the state. Even the Secretary of state Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah was unable to comment. To avoid commenting, he said that he is not in a position to comment on the notice issued by the Excise Department because as of now he has not read the notice.
The notice to put a ban on outsider carrying alcohol in the state was issued by Excise Department on the 30th of last month. It states that carrying liquor from outside the state was an illegal punishable Act under Section 50 of the J&K Excise Act. This is a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
As per State Excise Commissioner, Tsering Angchok, the decision was taken only to keep a check on the bulk transportation of liquor from outside the state.
The notice also mentions that “whosoever, without lawful authority, is found to be in possession of ‘any quantity of liquor’ or any intoxicating drug shall on conviction before a Judicial Magistrate be punished with imprisonment for a term up to seven years and which shall not be less than three years”.
The commissioner further said that almost all the Indian and foreign made liquor is available in the state and hence, there is no need for tourists to carry liquor from outside the state. People transport bulk of liquor from outside because it is cheaper in other states as compared to J&K.
However, the sources from Tourism has said that, the state government had declared 2015 as ‘Visit Jammu and Kashmir Year’ but these steps taken by Excise Department recently are going to have an adverse affect over the tourist footfall in J&K.