The Madhya Pradesh government continues to flip-flop on its excise policy as it is caught between chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s oft-repeated stand on no new liquor shop and the state’s requirement for more funds to meet the expense on its populist measures.
When Chouhan ordered withdrawal of the amended provision in the excise policy on Friday he did it exactly what he has done in the past few years - scrapping his decision.
The amended provision allowed a person who has an annual income of Rs 10 lakh or more to store up to 100 bottles of liquor in his house. For that, he was supposed to take a licence by paying Rs 10,000.
The decision led to a protest from public as reflected in the media and the Opposition criticism mounted pressure on the government to review its decision on the amended provision.
Chouhan had announced in 2011 that there would be no new liquor shop in the state. However, his decision to allow sale of Indian made foreign liquor at country liquor shops across the state in January 2014 met strong criticism across the state, forcing him to withdraw his move.
The chief minister had gone on record saying that he could not sleep whole night after taking the decision in the state cabinet meet.
If Chouhan’s decision had been implemented it would have meant number of liquor shops increasing by 100% even without increase in the number of shops physically.
When Chouhan continues to stick to his oft-repeated stand on no new liquor shop then why does the excise department push forward its proposal for new liquor shops at regular intervals or the measures like 100 bottles storage etc. in the first place?
“It’s a compulsion on our part. If we don’t do this we will be questioned later by the government as to why we don’t make any effort to increase the revenue like other departments do,” said a high-ranking official on the condition of anonymity.
In 2009-10, 159 new shops were opened and revenue enhanced was to the tune of Rs 139 crore. Similarly, 149 new shops were opened to get additional revenue of Rs 98 crore.
“When new shops are not to be opened we have to take some new measures like we proposed the storage of 100 bottles for additional revenue. Excise happens to be one of the major sources of revenue of the government. In 2015-16 the state government is expected to earn about Rs 7800 crore,” said the official.
However, social activist PG Najpande said the liquor policy was amended under pressure from liquor lobbies.
He said no new liquor shop policy was not as major an issue as the profit margin through liquor sale.
Liquor was perhaps only commodity which has minimum sale price apart from maximum retail price. The government should have a constant excise policy and fixed profit margin on liquor sale, he said.