Man behind booze ban says threat calls have become routine

Harman Sidhu, who led a campaign against liquor outlets on highways and drunken driving that led to a Supreme Court ban, has said that he keeps getting threat calls but would like to take them in his stride.

"I keep getting such calls. There is nothing new," he said.

The 47-year-old Chandigarh resident's campaign had recently led to the Supreme Court ordering shut down of liquor shops and bars within 500 metres of highways across the country (See: Supreme Court directs closure of all liquor shops along highways).

When asked to comment on the nature of threat calls received by him, Sidhu said, "Some callers say 'hume aapko haar pehanane hai' (we want to garland your photo after your death). I just try to take all this in my stride."

On being asked whether he had demanded any security from the government, he said, "One-and-a-half years back, I had requested the Chandigarh administration in this regard, but they thought it was not required. Afterwards, I was provided with two personal security officers by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. I am satisfied with that."

 When contacted, Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police Eish Singhal said on Tuesday that Sidhu had been provided two PSOs.

Asked if Sidhu had lodged a complaint against receiving threat calls, Singhal said, "So far, we have not received any complaint from him."

 Sidhu, who runs ArriveSafe NGO, has been confined to a wheelchair for the past two decades after a car in which he was travelling in fell into a gorge in Himachal Pradesh, leaving him paralysed from neck down.

He said the idea about campaigning against liquor vends adjoining highways came to him five years ago when he moved an application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

"In March, 2014, the high court ordered that liquor vends should neither be visible nor accessible from the national and state highways," he said.

The matter ultimately went to the Supreme Court.

"In December 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that no liquor vend will be allowed within 500 metres of a state or national highway," Sidhu said.

In a significant order passed on pleas of various states seeking modification of the court's 15 December 2016 order, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar recently ruled that the judgement banning liquor vends along highways would also be applicable to bars, pubs and restaurants as "drunken driving leads to fatal road accidents".