After failing to achieve its liquor revenue for 2022-23 financial year, primarily due to introduction of uniform liquor prices in the tricity, the UT administration is now staring at unsold liquor vends in the upcoming fiscal, set to further dent its excise earnings.
Of the 95 liquor vends it put on offer through nine-day online bidding, in a major set-back, it could find takers for only 43 (45%) as the auction concluded on Tuesday.
From the auction of these 43 vends, that had a reserve price of ₹202 crore in all, the UT excise and taxation department earned only ₹221 crore.
In comparison, in 2022, UT had managed to sell 88 of the 96 liquor vends, earning ₹497.91 crore against the reserve price of ₹407.59 crore. But even then, against the excise revenue target of ₹887 crore for 2022-23, the administration collected only ₹787 crore (88%) till January 31 and is unlikely to achieve the target as the fiscal comes to a close in two weeks.
Palsora vend gets highest bid
Among the 43 vends auctioned, the one in Palsora raked in the highest bid of ₹11.65 crore against the reserve price of ₹9.60 crore.
Surprisingly, the liquor vend in Dhanas, located near the Punjab border (Mullanpur), which had been receiving the highest bids for the past two years, failed to even find a buyer. Last year, it was auctioned for the highest-ever amount of ₹12.78 crore. Even, the Khuda Lahora vend went unsold.
When liquor in Chandigarh was cheaper, these vends saw heavy footfall of customers from Punjab.
A senior official of the excise department said, “While uniform liquor prices in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula were aimed at checking inter-state smuggling, it has led to exodus of both customers and liquor vendors. With no price advantage, contractors are bidding in Punjab and even in Himachal Pradesh. We will be holding another auction next week for the remaining 52 vends.”
A liquor contractor, who wished not to be named, questioned, “When the liquor rates are same across the tricity, why would anyone travel to Chandigarh?”
He detailed that Punjab also offered open quota, while in Chandigarh it was fixed at 18 lakh liquor boxes per year, besides the licence fee in the UT was also comparatively higher. “Unless Chandigarh administration introduces some perks in its excise policy, contractors have no advantage of setting up shop in the city,” he added.