With most of the liquor vends having further raised the price of beer in Ludhiana, beer lovers in city are surprised and have raised a question as to why the state excise and taxation department has not fixed a limit on maximum retail price (MRP) of beer.
The liquor vends have raised the price of strong beer to `130 in case of Indian brands and `150 in case of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL).
Surprisingly, while almost all the items that are sold have a MRP tag, the policy of Punjab excise department makes a contractor to highlight only the minimum retail price on beer bottles. This has given an easy way to the contractors to raise the cost of beer at any time of the year without prior notification, as there is no cap on the maximum retail price.
Meanwhile, the excise department claimed that there was no policy regarding fixing the maximum retail price of beer in Punjab. The officials of the department also discreetly agree to the fact that a fixed price on beer should be notified by the department and it should not be left to the will of the wine contractors to increase the rate anytime.
Sale of beer increases in entire state, including Ludhiana, during summers. Interestingly, this year, the excise department had raised the minimum retail price of the beer by `5 from April 1 when the new contract of liquor vends came into force. Draw of liquor vends in Ludhiana was held on March 22 in which vends falling in 60 zones of the district were allotted to different bidders. The department earned an income of `710 crore from vends through licence fee and other duties, which was 27% more than last year’s income of `556 crore.
The minimum retail price of light beer was fixed at `70 against `65 during 2013-14 and the same for strong beer was fixed at `75 against `70 last year.
Pricing of the beer has been mired in controversy in the past as well due to excessive increase in the maximum price. Sources say the department was earning more by not fixing a maximum retail price. “Liquor vends that go under hammer on a very high price would be sold at low price if there is a cap on MRP of beer. Contractors would not buy vends at such a high price if they know that they cannot sell alcohol on the price they wish,” they said.
Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO) Parminder Singh said, “The excise policy states that there will be a minimum retail price on beer, but no maximum retail price on it. Liquor vends are auctioned and more the cost of auction, more will be the price of beer.”
Other issue that has raised suspicion on the working of excise department is that most of the liquor vends do not issue a bill to customers on purchase of liquor. “Directions have already been given to the liquor vend owners that a bill should be issued on demand” said Parminder.
Excise and taxation commissioner Anurag Verma said for the first time MRP on beer had been introduced for marriage palaces in the state as there were issue of “excessive cost of beer at these palaces”. “However in general, the government earns huge revenue in form of duty by fixing a minimum price on beer and that is used for developmental works. It is a conscious decision of the government,” said Verma.