Opposition parties in Gujarat slam move to allow liquor use in GIFT City

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A general view of office buildings at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) at Gandhinagar. File

A general view of office buildings at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) at Gandhinagar. File
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

The Gujarat government’s move to allow liquor consumption in GIFT City campus has triggered strong reactions from the Opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party as the parties have called the decision as a step to backdoor removal of prohibition in the State.

On Friday, the State government announced a new policy in a radical departure of its stringent dry law to allow alcohol consumption at hotels/restaurants/clubs offering “wine and dine” within the International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) near the State capital Gandhinagar.

After the decision, the principal opposition party Congress and AAP deemed it an unfortunate move that could harm the youth and affect the law and order situation in the State where prohibition has been in place from the time Gujarat was carved out as a separate State in 1960.

Gujarat is among a few States where liquor consumption is illegal and the State has been stringent in implementing the ban on alcohol consumption while forgoing revenue taxes worth several thousand crore rupees annually as prohibition has created a parallel bootlegging industry owing to a nexus between police and bootleggers.

“This is a very unfortunate move. The State BJP government wants to remove prohibition in the State and they have started it with GIFT City. Tomorrow, they will say they want to remove liquor ban at the Statue of Unity area in south Gujarat and Tent City of Dhordo in Kutch to attract tourists as well as the Surat Diamond Bourse,” Leader of Opposition Amit Chavda said.

“This will ruin the youth while affecting the law and order situation in the State. Today, Gujarat is considered safe thanks to the prohibition law. The State is considered safe for women thanks to ban in alcohol consumption,” he added.

Mr. Chavda also termed the government’s decision as a major departure from the BJP’s commitment for prohibition.

Ganiben Thakor, a Congress MLA, urged the government to immediately withdraw the decision to ensure law and order is upheld and the dignity of women is safeguarded. She expressed concern that permitting liquor inside GIFT City area will lead to deteriorating public safety in the State capital.

The AAP has also strongly opposed the move. Umesh Makwana, AAP MLA from Botad, wrote a letter to Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, urging the reversal of the decision to revoke prohibition in GIFT City.

The lawmaker has contended that the move to relax prohibition is unlikely to have any major impact on the investment scenario in the State. He added that despite prohibition, Gujarat has been a major destination of investment for several decades.

To attract foreign investment: officials

The State government officials have, however, contended that the limited access to liquor consumption in GIFT City campus is meant to attract global financial and fintech companies to invest and set up their businesses in the newly emerging city near the State capital.

The officials added that GIFT City is home to 470 entities registered under the International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA), global banks, alternative investment funds, three exchanges, insurance and intermediaries, fintech entities, foreign universities and aircraft and vessel leasing services firms.

“This is a decision to provide the same lifestyle to business leaders that they are used to in places where there is no liquor ban. Many foreign companies that have come to GIFT City are part of Fortune 500 companies,” State Cabinet Minister and spokesperson Rushikesh Patel told media persons on Saturday.

State government officials believe the move will not only attract new investments from global investors but also make it easier for companies to recruit talent from around the world.

Remove prohibition: Vaghela

Former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela has gone one step further to demand complete removal of prohibition from the State. “Let there be total removal of prohibition in the State. The law only breeds corruption,” he told media persons in Gandhinagar.

Lately, several companies operating from GIFT City have been demanding relaxation in the State’s prohibition laws in order to hire talent from outside the State.

With a workforce totalling around 20,000 people, companies in GIFT City unanimously echoed the challenges faced while hiring and retaining young talent due to stringent liquor ban.

The officials of GIFT City have held that easing prohibition norms will boost GIFT City’s stride towards becoming a global nerve centre for new-age financial and technology services.

GIFT City is an integrated development on 886 acres of land that has commercial establishments and residential space. It is considered to be India’s first greenfield smart city and International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).

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