As the auction of liquor vends will be held anytime later next week, gross discrepancies in operations of these vends across the city have been a cause of concern. While most of vends refuse to issue bills to customers even when demanded, many of them close to residential areas have been responsible for causing bad impact on the society.
The excise and taxation department officials, busy formulating the policy for the liquor vends, say as soon as the policy will be formed, the date for auction will be announced, and that auction can be held around March 20. The new contractor starts operating the liquor vend from April 1 every year.
However gross irregularity by the contractors of these vends and the excise department officials' apathetic attitude has been a major cause of concern.
The department has neither held any raids to ensure presence of bill books at liquor vends nor have they taken any action.
In a reality check, HT visited many liquor vends in different areas of the city like the Mall Road, Aarti Chowk, near MBD Mall and Pakhowal road etc., and found that no bills were issued even on demand of the customers.
Though many people buying liquor do not demand bill receipt, it is mandatory for vends to issue a bill book. Amrit Kaur Gill, deputy excise and taxation commissioner (DETC), said liquor vends were supposed to provide a bill receipt if demanded by the customers.
"A new policy is being framed for the liquor vends in the city, which will be out within a day or two. The auction of these vends will be held after that," said Gill.
On the other hand, the presence of liquor vends in residential areas, near religious and educational institutions has also caused a political outcry. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had recently lambasted the policies of the excise department, portfolio of which is held by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Praveen Bansal, BJP district president, criticized the excise department and said the senior officials had closed their eyes to the problems caused due to these liquor vends in every nook and corner of the city.
"The presence of liquor vends in public places, including parks, main roads and near educational and religious institutions is a serious issue that causes a bad impact on the society," said Bansal.
Also, there is no limit on the maximum retail price of liquor. As a result, the prices of beer have been raised significantly by all liquor contractors. Instead, the excise department had fixed a minimum retail price for the sale of liquor.
In an RTI application filed by a local resident Ravi Sharma, the excise department has stated that MRP is minimum retail price. The department has also not provided the list of liquor vend owners in the city stating "as VAT registration is not mandatory for retail liquor vend owners, hence no list of vends can be supplied", stated the RTI reply.
Last year, the auction for liquor vends was held on March 22 for a total of 60 zones having 8-15 vends. There were a total of 32 zones in city and 28 in rural areas. The excise and taxation department had earned revenue of Rs 10 crore through draw of lots.