The Congress on Monday accused the SAD-BJP government of monopolising the state’s liquor trade to favour revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and MLA Deep Malhotra of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), seeking the government’s clarification on its excise policy.
Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu raised the issue as he spoke on the demands of grants in the Vidhan Sabha, highlighting the excise policy’s clauses concerning “restricting the number of licensees to only five people”.
“There will be a clear-cut loot of Rs 10,000 crore by the selected people who will have monopoly over the entire liquor trade in the state,” Sidhu said.
He cited the HT news report (Policy shift leaves Punjab liquor traders high and dry) that appeared on Monday, as he even named SAD members Bikram Majithia and Deep Malhotra as those to be issued the licence ‘L 1-A’ as a monopoly to procure liquor from the manufacturers.
He said the liquor manufacturers now feared losses and they were making the rounds of the government for clarifications on the liquor policy.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the excise and taxation minister, said he assured the House that the issuance of licence L 1-A would not be restricted to five people. “Sidhuji, even you can apply for it, we will give it to you also,” Sukhbir said, adding, “You (Sidhu) have been getting the L 1-A licence earlier”.
The deputy chief minister ruled out the opposition’s allegations that liquor would be expensive after the new policy, stating that the maximum selling price had been fixed this time.
Sukhbir said excise and taxation officers (ETOs) would now closely monitor the working of the L 1-A licensees (the suppliers).
Sidhu, however, sought review of the new policy, saying no one would seek the L 1 licence in the presence of L 1-A licensees monopolising the trade scene as per the policy.
Talk of ‘dry state’
Agriculture minister Tota Singh proposed that the House take a resolve to abolish liquor in the state.
On this, Congress MLA Kuljit Nagra even intimidated the treasury benches, saying the Akalis should take an oath in the House that they would not booze. Tota Singh was quick to react amid the uproar, “Let all 117 MLAs resolve that they won’t booze.”