‘Bigwigs' find liquor business lucrative
Nationalize retail liquor trade,
Demands Dr. JP
Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today demanded a thorough overhaul of the liquor policy in the wake of the illicit liquor and toddy tragedies in the State. He wanted nationalization of the retail liquor trade, strict curbs on the number of retail outlets and making panchayats responsible for eradicating the illicit menace.
Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP said the illicit liquor deaths were not an accident; they flowed directly from the flawed and misconceived Government policy of enriching the treasury at the expense of the poor. If the Government earned an estimated Rs.20,000 crore by way of excise, VAT, privilege fee and license fee revenue during the current excise year, people would have spent Rs.40000 crore on consuming liquor. The Government which claims to work for the welfare of the poor spends not more than Rs.20,000 crore on schemes meant to benefit them. This is nothing but a massive fraud on the poor, Dr. JP said.
Dr. JP pointed out that the Government collected an average license fee of Rs.70 lakh per liquor shop which means that the shop has to earn a profit after tax of at least Rs.20,000 a day towards license fee. A shop in Guntur district was auctioned for the highest amount of Rs.5.18 crore, which implies it has to earn at least Rs.1.50 lakh a day towards license fee alone. How could the Government expenct the shop to sell liquor at the maximum retail price if it were to survive in business, Dr. JP asked.
Dr. JP charged that the political parties which shed tears over illicit liquor tragedies are not sincere as they are not prepared to kill the goose that lays golden eggs for them as well as officials. Excise and police officials have enough powers to curb illicit liquor but they do not exercise them for obvious reasons. The Government with its eyes set on revenue turns a blind eye to all malpractices. Traditional parties which believe in vote bank politics lure voters with free supply of liquor during elections to all institutions ranging from the panchayat to Parliament. It once again suits political parties if people lose their ability to question them having become addicts to liquor. Post-elections, those who come to power corner liquor shops and start earning black money. A Lok Satta Party team which visited the Mylavaram villages found that illicit distillation of liquor was being carried on in connivance with political parties and excise officials. And in villages where the youth and women are resisting malpractices, people are being systematically harassed.
Dr. JP said that the recent ACB raids have revealed the nexus between liquor syndicates on the one hand and politicians and officials on the other. The Government would not disclose their details as though it amounted to revelaing a national defense secret.
Dr. JP demanded that the Government nationalize retail trade at least from the next excise year and limit the number of retial outlets. Panchayats should have the power to say a no to the location of a retail outlet in their villages. They should be made responsible for curbing illicit liquor. If they fail, the panchayat president and members should not merely be sacked but punished. The liquor policy must be completely revamped, consumption of liquor should not been seen a revenue source, and targets should not be fixed for sale and revenues.
Mr. V. Laxman Balaji, acting Working President of the party and Mrs. N. Saroja Devi took part in the media conference.
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