One of the prevalent problems Andhra Pradesh and even the district of Visakhapatnam faces is the presence of liquor belt shops. The state government keeps claiming to have taken serious measures to have put a check on the spread of them, but reality says otherwise.
A huge number of them still continue to flourish in Visakhapatnam, offering liquor for just a little over market price. Reportedly, sources in the excise department have disclosed that there are over 1200 belt shops in the district as opposed to the 486 licensed ones. Out of the 486, only 123 are licensed bars while the others are liquor shops.
One of the reasons for the rise of these belt shops is the demand that is created by the NREGS workers in rural areas. There is also a rise in customer base in the urban areas, especially through youngsters. Recently, two youngsters died with two others left seriously injured after drinking the liquor bought in belt shops. Such incidents lead the media to question authorities why they show an incapacity in stopping such outlets from selling liquor all night long.
Reportedly, most of these belt shops enjoy the protection of political community because they contribute to the income of the panchayats. They do so by paying an annual revenue through indirect and undisclosed tax. A senior panchayat leader from Anakapalli stated that they tried shutting down the belt shops only to realise that it wasn’t possible due to their services extended to clients that fall within the vote bank. They have hence decided to force them to pay a penalty tax, thereby validating their existence.
These belt shops also reportedly cater to a number of techies who work late nights, high-end and transit customers too. Despite there being police on patrol, these outlets remain open till 4 AM.