Bhopal: The new excise policy approved by the state cabinet on Tuesday received a mixed response. While a section of liquor industry sources welcomed the policy terming it as good and effective to curb spurious liquor trade, another group opposed it saying that the government has “doubled” liquor shops by proxy through composite liquor shop policy.
Those hailing the policy said illicit liquor trade will suffer as prices will come down. While those opposing it alleged government is promoting sale of liquor despite chief minister pledging not to open new liquor shops in the state.
Two things, however, stand out on how the new excise policy would impact the liquor market: liquor would sell more, would be more accessible and excise revenue of the state government would go up even as prices of liquor reduce nominally.
Excise commissioner Rajiv Dubey while talking to TOI said that the department expects excise revenue to go up by 20% in the new financial year. As of now, state’s excise revenue is Rs 10,300 crore.
When asked whether the composite liquor shop i.e. shops selling both the Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and country liquor would be optional for contractors or all the shops will be composite shops, he said “We shall give licence to all the shops; what they keep and sell is their prerogative. It’s like a grocery shop owner may keep certain things and may not keep some other. The contractor will have the freedom to keep both the IMFL and country liquor and he would pay the licence fee likewise, he may decide to only keep IMFL and not sell country liquor or vice versa,” he said.
On avowed target of the new policy to reduce prices of liquor and rationalise it to check the sale of spurious liquor, he said on an average both country liquor and IMFL would be cheaper by 10%. When asked that a 10% reduction in prices would mean hardly anything going by the fact that liquor shops are abnormally high in the state, he said, “There are several brands, and they are priced differently. Prices of some will reduce more and some less and on an average it would be about 10%.
On allowing micro breweries to operate, he said, “Rules in this regard have not been framed. They will be framed by March.”
Rinku Bhatia, who knows the intricacies of liquor trade inside out, while welcoming the new excise policy said due to its provisions prices of liquor will drop and it would be easily available, thereby curbing illegal sale of liquor.
Bhatia said that the new policy would also work to end the monopoly of a cartel in the liquor trade as liquor shops would be auctioned in small clusters and there would be several players.
Bhatia said that the provision for allowing setting up of micro brewing units is a step towards modernising liquor trade in the state as in the metros. It would allow hotels and resorts at tourist destinations and bigger cities like Bhopal and Indore to serve fresh beer.
He, however, suggested that if the state government allows open tender for country liquor, prices of country liquor could come down drastically.
“As of now, the country liquor trade is in the hands of distilleries. As a result, a box of 55 quarters (nip), which should cost Rs 400 to a trader, is costing Rs 700, if open tender is allowed in allotting the liquor shop outlets, in addition to 10% decline in prices, a quarter of country liquor would start costing Rs 7-8 less,” he said.
However, a liquor contractor, on the condition of anonymity, said that through composite shop culture, the state government has been able to do what it had been trying to do for quite some time- increasing the number of liquor shops. “There are 6,500 liquor shops in the state- 4,000 dealing in sale of IMFL and the remaining 2,500 selling country liquor. When you allow each shop to have counters for both, the number of shops are doubled by proxy. If you remember, the Shivraj government had tried to do it earlier as well but had to revoke the order due to stiff opposition. Since the chief minister had pledged not to open any new liquor shop, officials of the excise department have tried to do it by proxy,” he added.
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