There has been a flood of liquor licence applications from the small towns that lie on the West Bengal side after Bihar went dry. Nondescript, dusty places like Dalkhola, Itahar, Ramganj and Islampur. Or Kumedpur, Bhaluka, Godai Maharajpur in Malda district.
During the last few months, the state excise department has receive numerous applications for both on-shop and off-shop licences for both India Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and the country variety from these little known locations.
Ever since the Bihar government had imposed a ban on liquor, people from Bengal’s neighbouring areas have been trooping down to these places for a drink or two.
Quenching the thirst of Bihar will provide big cheer for cash-strapped Bengal government that is increasingly turning to liquor to raise revenues.
To raise money from excise collection, the Mamata Banerjee government has already taken two major steps --- it has cut dry days from 12 to 4.5 a year and has allowed bars to keep their shutters open till 2 am on weekends.
Sources in the state excise department told HT that during the last three months, the department has received at least 150 such licence applications from the Bengal-Bihar bordering towns, including the ones mentioned above. And since the Bengal government is desperate to raise revenue, most of the applications have been okayed.
“With prohibition in Bihar, illegal liquor joints had mushroomed along the Bengal-Bihar bordering areas, and most shops were unlicensed. The state excise department does not have sufficient manpower to control this menace. So it better that licences are granted, so that businesses are run in a legal manner and the state gets its share of money,” said an excise department official.
Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra has set an ambitious target of Rs 4,698 crore from excise collections in 2016-17, up from Rs 3,891 crore last fiscal.