The Bombay High Court has stayed the disbursal of Rs. 1,000 crore of the taxpayers’ money — in the form of subsidy by the Maharashtra government — to distilleries that make alcohol using foodgrains.
The subsidy is applicable to 21 distilleries, many of which are controlled by politicians.
Questioning the state’s policy, the court on Wednesday asked: “What is essential commodity — foodgrains or wine?”
The division bench, which was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Aurangabad-based social activist Chetan Kamble, also commented that the state’s finances seem “sound”, considering the amount of subsidy it wants to hand out.
Maharashtra’s debt currently stands at Rs. 1.6 lakh crore.
The restraint is in place until the state files an affidavit at the next hearing, a month later.
The beneficiaries include former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit and Nationalist Congress Party leader Govindrao Aadik. This list was approved by the excise department.
The scheme was approved by the state Cabinet in May 2007 and was adopted a month later. It was introduced ostensibly to increase jowar and bajra production and help small farmers in the backward regions get better price for their produce.
Kamble has challenged the decision disputing the need to promote foodgrain-based distilleries when the state is facing grains shortage and there are hundreds of distilleries run by sugar factories.