Coronavirus: The kind of pictures coming out of the northeastern state of Assam after the sale of liquor during the lockdown has intensified the debate on social media for the last few days.
Questions are arising that “Is the sale of liquor so important? What will happen to social distress after all? While people are worrying about essential goods, the government is thinking of selling liquor considered luxury!”
In this context, the order of the Excise and Taxation Department of the Government of Haryana is also being discussed that it said that work should be started in all the liquor factories of the state with immediate effect.
Opposition has also raised questions on this decision of Haryana Government. Congress Party spokesperson and minister in the state Randeep Singh Surjewala has said that “At the time the government should think about the well-being of 2.5 crore people of the state, they are worried about the liquor factories going on.”
In a video conference, Surjewala said that “when all the focus should be on the ongoing war against COVID-19, and we should think about the medical staff fighting the pandemic, then the Haryana government is in a hurry as to how alcohol Factories to be started. “
But the Haryana government argues that this decision has also been taken keeping in mind the ongoing war against COVID-19.
Coronavirus: why so much concern over the sale of alcohol?
Preparations after lockdown
State Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala spoke to BBC in this regard. The Excise and Taxation Department of Haryana works under the leadership of Dushyant Chautala.
He said, “Haryana is trying to supply the demand of ENA, i.e. ‘Extra Neutral Alcohol’, not only its but also Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. ENA is used to make sanitizers that come out of alcohol factories. “
“There are other beer-making companies, who argued that they had a lot of chemical prepared, with the help that if the beer was not packed in bottles, it would turn into poisonous substances. Then where to throw it, it would have become a different challenge for the environment and us. “
Chautala said, “Haryana government also wants to be prepared for the situation after the lockdown. We do not want the supply to be there when the shops open.”
He clarified that the order of the Excise Department is not about the sale of liquor at the shops. These orders are for production in factories only.
Chautala said that “the state needs revenue for public interest schemes. At a time when the government’s income from state transport and land registries is stalled, the sale of liquor can help the state a lot in collecting revenue. Haryana gets maximum revenue from these three. “
Chautala admitted that the sale of counterfeit liquor during the lockdown had been a challenge for his government and so far 55 thousand fake liquor bottles have been seized in different districts of the state.
According to the Excise and Taxation Department of Haryana, in the financial year 2019-20, the state received revenue of Rs 6700 crore, out of which Rs 3600 crore was derived from the sale of liquor.
According to the Excise and Taxation Department of the state, the Haryana government wants to increase the target of sale of alcohol to 3800 crore in the next financial year. According to this, if there is no sale of liquor in Haryana, then the revenue of the state incurs a loss of Rs 10 crore per day.
Long queues outside liquor shops in Assam
Liquor shops were opened in the northeastern states of Assam and Meghalaya on Monday after a total of 25 days of lockdown.
A source from Assam told that as soon as liquor shops opened at 10 am on the government’s directive, long queues of people were seen outside the shops.
The Excise Department of Assam has permitted to open liquor shops from 10 am to 5 pm. During this time, contracts for domestic liquor will also be open. However, bar-restaurants are not allowed to open.
Parimal Shukla Vaidya, a minister in the Assam government who is currently heading the excise department, told the BBC that “permission has been granted on the basis of the guidelines set by the National Health Mission. If anyone violates these guidelines If found doing, we will cancel his license. “
But was there any hurry to open liquor shops during a lockdown? In response to this question, Minister Parimal Shukla said, “Tea plantation and sale of liquor are two big sources of revenue of the state. But the Assam government did not take this decision only keeping revenue collection in mind.
Many social reasons behind it Also, liquor shops have been opened in the neighboring state of Meghalaya and we were worried that drug users should not go there to bring liquor because if this happens then Corona and The risk of infection of the virus will increase further. “
He said, “Liquor shops were closed in the state even before the Janata curfew. There was a complete lockdown of 25 days due to which the government has lost revenue of about Rs 300 crore. Our Excise Department would have collected the highest revenue in the state. In the last financial year, our department collected revenue of Rs 3000 crore. “
The order issued by the Excise Department of Assam states that licensed shops will have to maintain a distance of one meter between their staff and customers.
Also, the number of employees in bulk godowns, distilleries, breweries, bottling plants should be minimized so that social distancing can be followed. At the same time, the staff of the shop has been ordered to use the sanitizer to collect money.
30% additional tax on liquor
The West Bengal government has also decided to raise the amount by levying an additional 30 per cent sales tax on liquor to counter the Corona epidemic.
Due to this, the government is expected to get an additional revenue of 4100 crores during the current financial year. A journalist Prabhakar Mani Tiwari, present in Kolkata, said that 1.40 crore cases of Indian-made foreign liquor are sold in West Bengal every year.
In every such case, there are nine litres of alcohol. Apart from this, 80 lakh cases of beer are sold, and in each case, there are 12 bottles of 650 ml.
West Bengal State Beverages Corporation is the only wholesaler of alcohol in the state. Now the government is losing revenue of about 30-35 crores daily due to the stoppage of liquor sales during the lockdown.
Because of the decision of the state government for 30 per cent additional sales tax, two things are visible at the moment. One is that the government wants to start selling liquor at the earliest so that the financial losses do not increase further. And the second thing is that now the price of alcohol in the state will increase significantly.
Preparations are also underway to install new price stickers on the bottles kept in the old stock. However, liquor vendors have objected to this. A Kolkata-based liquor seller told that, “Earlier we used to work on 5-6% profit.
Increasing prices means that we have to invest thirty per cent more capital to get the same amount as before. This will reduce profits further. “
Liquor sellers argue that due to the sudden increase in prices, there will be a possibility of increasing the smuggling of liquor from neighbouring states.
Alcohol is already more expensive in West Bengal than in neighbouring states. And prices are going to increase after the new order.
But a senior official of the state excise department argued that during the lockdown, people are secretly buying liquor at three times the price. In such a situation, such people can spend 30% extra to deal with the epidemic like Corona.
During the lockdown, reports of smuggling of liquor coming from different parts of the state are being published in the local media.
In the last two weeks, the West Bengal Police has recovered vast quantities of liquor from several places during checking.
Last week, hundreds of bottles of liquor were seized from an ambulance in Nadia district, and three people were also arrested in this regard.