New Delhi:
Lowering legal drinking age to 21 from 25 years and the government withdrawing from running liquor vends in Delhi are among the main features of an excise policy approved by the AAP dispensation on Monday, with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia saying the measure is expected to lead to an annual revenue growth of 20 per cent.

The government decided to shut all its shops in the national capital as they were generating less earnings in comparison to private liquor stores.

Currently, 40 per cent of around 850 establishments in the national capital are privately run.

According to the government, state-run vends were indulging in ''brand pushing'' and there were also instances of revenue leakage.

Addressing a press conference, Sisodia said the new measure will put an end to the liquor buying experience from a ''jail-like setup'' at state-run shops.

Private liquor shops being allowed should have a minimum area of 500 square feet.

The government announced that no new liquor shops will be opened and 60 per cent share of government shops in the current retail liquor business will be replaced by private players.

Sisodia said it is not the government's job to sell liquor and hoped that the excise revenue will increase by Rs 1,500-2000 crore annually after the implementation of the new policy. Currently, the government gets around Rs 6,000 crore from the excise revenue.

Lowering drinking age will also help the government discourage young people from going to pubs and hotels in Noida and neighbouring cities, a move that will also increase the excise revenue as such establishments in Delhi will not have to face hefty penalty for serving alcohol to the customers of the age group.

The government said that in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, the age of consuming alcohol is 21 years while in Goa and Andhra Pradesh it is 18 years.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) welcomed the decision and said that it was a ''pragmatic'' step that would benefit both businesses and the exchequer.

Noting that the current legal drinking age prescribed for Delhi was an "outdated law" that finds its genesis in the Punjab Excise Act of 1914, NRAI president Anurag Katriar said that the association had been requesting for amending such "archaic laws".

As part of reforms, the Delhi government will also set up an international standard checkup system by which it will keep a watch on low-quality liquors and stop their distribution.

An international quality lab will be set up to test the quality of liquor coming into the city.