Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3 on Tuesday, many people were panic-buying and restocking pantries. While a section prioritised essential goods, some were more concerned about surviving a ‘dry spell’.
The lockdown has triggered withdrawal symptoms among regular smokers and drinkers. Non-availability of alcohol has been reported as the cause of a rash of deaths, including suicides in some states. There is an unease among habitual smokers too.
Majorly consumed cigarettes brands, which used to cost Rs 17 earlier for a single stick, are now being sold at a price anywhere between Rs 20 to 25 in and around Delhi-NCR. It is mostly being sold from the old stock of shopkeepers and the price is going to get high as the existing stock nears exhaustion.
In Hyderabad and surrounding areas the highest selling cigarette now costs Rs 25 per piece against Rs 17 earlier. Brands which sold cigarettes at lower prices are now being sold for double their asking price.
With scarcity of cigarettes, prices in Bengaluru have gone up manifold, from Rs 16 a stick to anywhere between Rs 30 and Rs 40.
In Kolkata, a pack of cigarette that would previously cost Rs 330 is now being sold for Rs 430 and a pack that would cost Rs 300 is now being sold at Rs 400. In Chennai, cigarettes are being sold by some grocery shops at an extra cost of Rs 5 to 10 per stick.
If you think it is difficult being a smoker during a lockdown, being an alcohol enthusiast even more challenging.
Taking advantage of the situation, black marketers and hoarders have started selling liquor at a price several times higher than the actual price in various cities.
In Bengaluru, the cheapest liquor which was sold at Rs 70 per 180ml is being sold at Rs 800, 10 times higher than the usual price. A full bottle of the same liquor that came earlier with a price tag of Rs 250 is now being sold at a whopping cost of Rs 3,000. Liquor which has MRP of about Rs 400 for a full bottle is being sold for around Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500. The price of premium Scotch now varies from Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000 depending on the brand.
In Hyderabad, the rates of premium beer are touching the skies: it is being sold at Rs 300 while the actual price is Rs 120. A strong beer’s cost has catapulted from Rs 150 to Rs 400. A premium whiskey bottle which was earlier priced at Rs 1,050 is now being sold for Rs 5,000. Scotch’s price has shot up from Rs 1,800 a bottle to Rs 6,500, while premium Scotch’s price has surged from Rs 2,800 to Rs 8,000.
Similarly, in Kolkata, a whiskey bottle with a price tag of Rs 1,700 is being sold for Rs 5,200 whereas blended whiskey 750ml which has an MRP of Rs 1,050 is being sold for Rs 3,200. A bottle of vodka costing Rs 800 earlier is now sold at Rs 3,000, while cheaper vodka which has a price tag of Rs 250 is now available at a price of Rs 1,500.
(With inputs from Ramana, Kausik Sen and Sharath Sharma)