With the Punjab government making efforts to reduce the rates of liquor in its new excise policy, the Chandigarh administration is likely to follow suit.
At present, the liquor rates in Chandigarh are around 10% lower compared to the state of Punjab, while Haryana has the lowest rate among the three.
The new excise policy of Punjab will come into force from April 1 onwards, which will bring down the prices of liquor by around 5 to 10%, according to senior officials.
Punjab has announced to increase the number of licensing units and reduce licensing fee in its policy.
The UT excise and taxation department has started analysing the policy announced by Punjab government, to frame its new policy
UT assistant excise and taxation commissioner RC Bhalla said they would propose to the keep the rates almost at par with Punjab to avoid losses. However, he added, "The final decision would be taken by UT administrator Shivraj Patil."
Last year, the administration had increased the excise duty from 20% to 300% and assessment fee by 33%, thus pushing the liquor rates higher. The administration has incurred a loss of around Rs. 60 crore due to as many as 90 unsold vends, despite repeated attempts. For attracting bidders, the department had even reduced the reserve price of the vends by 30%.
Running short of time
The excise department has a few days left for formulating the policy for 2014-15, before the model code of conduct is imposed for the Lok Sabha elections scheduled to be held in May. The model code of conduct is expected to be imposed in the first week of March.
After its enforcement, the authorities would have to defer the announcement of the new excise policy till the general elections are over. The current excise policy is valid till April 30, and if the code of conduct is enforced, the authorities would be forced to extend it till the new policy is not announced.
Aware of the situation, RC Bhalla accepted that framing of the new policy in such a short span of time would be an uphill task.
The department has also decided to write to the election commission of India seeking permission for announcing the new policy during
the period when the model code of conduct is in force.
Bhalla said, in 2004, the commission had allowed announcement of excise policy during the period of code of conduct. However, a similar request was turned down in 2009.
Alternative sites for vends
The excise and taxation department will request the administration for assigning separate locations for allocating space for liquor shops in place of vends, which were being operated from fabricated structures.
After the excise policy 2013-14 came into force, the administration was forced to remove the pre-fabricated structures on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which were issued in 2012. There were a total of 28 pre-fabricated structures in the city, which were used as liquor vends on roadsides.
"We will request the authorities for allotment of alternative sites for opening up of vends as replacement of vends that were being operated from pre-fabricated structures," said Bhalla.
Chandigarh administration has complied with the direction of high court by removing pre-fabricated vends, which are galore in Panchkula and SAS Nagar. According to sources, these vends will affect sale of liquor shops on the borders of Panchkula and SAS Nagar.