After Bihar went dry, Bacchus lovers have been running to neighbouring states like Jharkhand, West Bengal and even the Himalayan country, Nepal, to quench their thirst. And the states have also not been far behind in encashing on the growing demand. The ban in Bihar has come as a blessing in disguise for these states as footfall of tipplers continues to surge everyday.
In West Bengal, there has been a flood of applications for liquor shop licence, specially from the small towns in bordering areas, after Bihar went dry. These towns include even nondescript, dusty places like Dalkhola, Itahar, Ramganj, Islampur, Kumedpur, Bhaluka or Godai Maharajpur in Malda district.
In the last few months, Bengal state excise department has received numerous applications for both on-shop and off-shop licences for India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well as the country liquor variety from these little known locations.
Sources in the state excise department told HT that during the last three months, they had received at least 150 such licence applications from many bordering towns. And, most of the applications have been approved. For, West Bengal has been quick to realise that with total prohibition in Bihar, tipplers have been heading to Bengal to quench their thirst. This will provide a big boost to the cash-strapped West Bengal government, which is increasingly turning to liquor to raise revenue.
Interestingly, during 2016-17 - the period when Bihar imposed total prohibition on April 5, 2016 - West Bengal realised Rs 4,778.29 crore against an excise revenue target of Rs 4,698 crore. In 2015-16, the target was Rs 3,891 crore. Hoping to ride the wave and capitalise on the slump in Bihar’s excise revenue, West Bengal has now raised the bar to Rs 5,781 crore for 2017-18.
The Mamata Banerjee government has already taken two major steps to raise revenue from excise collection. It has cut down on dry days from 12 to 4.5 a year and has also allowed bars to keep their shutters open till 2am on weekends.
“With prohibition in Bihar, illegal liquor joints had mushroomed along the Bengal-Bihar border, and most shops were unlicenced. The state excise department does not have enough manpower to check this menace. So, it is better that licence is granted and the liquor business run in a legal manner, enabling the state also to get its share of the revenue,” said an excise official.