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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Govt says liquor prices to fall, policy contradicts

Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, March 03, 2014
First Published: 00:51 IST(3/3/2014) | Last Updated: 00:54 IST(3/3/2014)

The Punjab government may claim to be trying to reduce the liquor prices in the state but figures in the excise policy for financial year 2014-15 announced last week suggest the liquor cost will rise.

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From the excise tax on the sale of liquor in the financial year, the state government targets a revenue of Rs. 4,671 crore, which is Rs. 724 crore (or 18%) more than the current fiscal's collection of Rs. 3,947 crore. The fixed quota for sale is just 3% more than the current-year figure.

The quota for country-made liquor is up from 9.2-crore proof litres to 9.5-crore proof litres and that of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) increased from 4.4-crore litres to 4.5-crore litres. "That and the revenue projection suggest the cost of liquor in Punjab will rise in the coming year but we are taking steps to bring down the prices," said a senior officer in the excise department, who doesn't want to be named.

The picture, he said, would be clear only after the completion of auction and allotment of liquor shops in April. "In the current year, the licensees (liquior shop owners) made a huge profit on each bottle because of monopoly that we'll now discourage," said the officer of the rank of deputy excise and taxation commissioner.

A fixed quota of 25.33-crore bottles of country-made liquor and 8.3-crore bottles of IMFL will be sold in the next financial year. "In spite of the increase in revenue, the department will bring down the prices by introducing competition," said additional excise and taxation commissioner Neelam Chauduary.

For meeting that target, the department has decided to increase the number of groups operating in the business in the state from 245 to almost 500.

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