The new year has brought some good news to alcohol consumers and sellers in rural Maharashtra, as the State government has decided to allow liquor shops under gram panchayats to renew licences, a procedure that was on hold since April 2017. As per a government circular issued on January 1 and a letter sent by the State Excise Commissioner to all district collectors, except for the dry districts of Wardha, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli, the licences can be renewed in any gram panchayat which fulfils at least one of two criteria. The first is that the population under the gram panchayat should be at least 3,000 as per the 2011 census. Alternatively, the area should be located within 3 km of the limits of a municipal corporation or within a kilometre of a municipal council or municipal panchayat. According to a government official, the decision will benefit 1,500 permit rooms, and 400 country liquor and 700 beer shops. As per a Supreme Court decision of December 2016, wine shops and permit rooms within 500 m of highways were stopped from selling alcohol. Later, the move was amended to exclude highways within city limits.“A number of licence holders who still could not get their permits renewed had approached the Bombay High Court through writ petitions. In May 2018, the court directed the State government to hold hearings of these cases. Following the hearing, the government has decided to allow renewal of licences,” an official from the Excise Department said.