Monday, June 24, 2024

Liquor shops shift to digital payments amid criticism

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In a sudden shift of policy, government liquor shops in Visakhapatnam have stopped accepting cash payments, causing frustration and confusion among customers. Until recently, these shops only accepted cash, despite the availability of digital payment options like PhonePe and Google Pay.
This move has been met with criticism, especially from labourers and the poor, who are struggling to adapt to the new system. For years, opposition parties have accused the government of diverting funds by not utilising digital payments. Now, in an unexpected policy reversal, government liquor shops are insisting on digital payments exclusively, rejecting cash transactions altogether. Shop employees have been instructed to prioritise digital transactions, aiming to achieve a minimum of 200-400 digital payments per shop daily.
This abrupt policy change has particularly affected the labourers and elderly, many of whom do not use mobile phones for transactions. With alcohol sales in the district reaching Rs 150-190 crore monthly, and 80 per cent of this from cheap liquor, the lack of digital payment facilities among poorer customers is causing significant inconvenience. Workers, fishermen, and other low-income individuals, who predominantly purchase cheap liquor, are finding it difficult to transition to cashless payments. They have voiced their frustration, questioning the timing of this new policy under the current government.
After the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) came to power, it moved away from the previously proposed phased prohibition of alcohol. Allegations of irregularities in the manufacture and sale of alcohol have plagued the government, with opposition parties accusing it of exploiting liquor sales and distributing adulterated products. There have also been claims that local representatives were closing nearby government shops to benefit private bars.
Critics are now questioning why the implementation of cashless transactions, which is being enforced now, was not done during the previous five years of YSRCP’s governance. Concerns have been raised about the transparency of these transactions and whether the revenue generated through digital payments will benefit government coffers or be diverted elsewhere.
As the government pushes for digital payments in liquor sales, the sudden change has created widespread dissatisfaction, especially among the poor and elderly who rely on cash transactions. The policy shift raises questions about transparency and the true intentions behind the move, casting a shadow over the government’s handling of liquor sales and revenue management. The transition to cashless transactions in government liquor shops is a step toward modernizing payment methods, but its sudden implementation has highlighted the need for a more inclusive approach that considers the technological capabilities of all citizens.

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