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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Miffed, Chandigarh liquor contractors decide not to send suggestions for excise policy

Upset over Chandigarh’s ‘rigid’ excise policy and the losses they have allegedly suffered due to neighbouring Punjab’s ‘flexible’ policy, the Chandigarh Wine Contractors Association has decided not to submit suggestions for next year’s policy.

“Throughout the year, we urged the administration to make necessary changes in its liquor policy but all fell on deaf ears. The result? At least 18 liquor vends out of 95 were not auctioned causing a loss of approximately Rs 150 crore to the state exchequer in the current financial year,” Darshan Singh Kaler, president of the association, said.

With the current excise policy set to end on March 31, 2024, the UT excise department had sought suggestions in the first week of November, with a submission deadline of November 30.

The Chandigarh Wine Contractors Association, an umbrella body of 77 liquor vend owners, decided on Saturday that it would not participate in the exercise even if the date was extended.

“We collectively decided not to participate in the formation of Excise Policy 2024-25, considering the experience of the last two years. The rigid excise policy of the UT administration contrasts with the flexible liquor policy in Punjab, where liquor contractors are not bound to pick a fixed quota of liquor cartons,” Kaler added.

“It is well known that the liquor contractors in Chandigarh are facing immense losses. Worse, the administration is trying to recover this loss from us by shifting the liquor quota of the non-auctioned 18 vends to us. Inviting suggestions from stakeholders like us is merely eyewash,” Kaler added.

Sanjeev Garg, a liquor contractor, emphasised the need for a cut in the liquor quota. “As liquor prices in Punjab are similar or lower than those in Chandigarh, liquor sales in Chandigarh have declined. We face penalties for falling short of picking a certain fixed quota of liquor cartons from distilleries. The penalty for not picking each IMFL and IFL carton from the plant is Rs 900 and Rs 3,500, respectively. In Punjab, there is no fixed quota and contractors pick stock based on their requirements. If VAT on liquor is 12 per cent in Chandigarh, it is merely 1 per cent in Punjab,” he said.

The UT excise department had set a revenue target of Rs 830 crore for 2023-24 but collected only Rs 600 crore. The main revenue comes from licence fees for the vends, which range from Rs 3 crore to Rs 15 crore, depending on their location.

A senior UT excise department officer acknowledged the limited suggestions from liquor contractors, saying the excise policy in Punjab was under consideration and all concerns were being taken into account.

The suggestions received include the installation of alcohol sensors in taverns or ahatas, prohibition of cooking non-veg items in open verandas outside taverns, and increasing the distance of liquor vends from educational institutes from 100 metres to 200 metres.

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