The allotment of 202 shops for Punjab-made medium liquor (PML) and 55 shops of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), spread across eight circles of the district, was made here on Friday through a circle-wise draw of lots. The number of circles in the district has been reduced to 8 from 16 last year, which allegedly led to the shutting of doors of liquor business for small contractors.
As per sources, the two circles of Kotkapura drew a maximum number of 178 applications while Faridkot 151 and Jaitu 85. Another small rural circle Sadiq got only 12 applications while Golewala rural got 48.
As one could file as many applications as one wanted by paying the required fee for every application to brighten the chances of winning the draw, the firms, owned directly or indirectly by Faridkot MLA Deep Malhotra, had reportedly filed over 200 applications for four major circles of Faridkot and Kotkapura. Some others had also filed multiple applications. However, Malhotra's firms could win only one draw for Faridkot (urban) circle.
The fee for Kotkapura was Rs 70,000 per application and for Faridkot and Jaitu it was Rs 55,000 and Rs 45,000 respectively.
The department aims at earning about rt99 crore, an increase of about 8% over the last year's Rs 92 crore, from these shops during 2015-2016.
The department had received a total of 474 applications and earned Rs 2.74 crore as application fee.
All the towns were divided in two circles each, one rural and another urban, besides Sadiq and Golewala rural circles. "This year, influential people managed to reduce the number of circles to almost half than those last year, so that small contractors could not enter the business.
Though the draw system is transparent, yet it is controlled by politicians from the back channel.
Only big players could survive the business because of many kinds of hidden costs. One has to hire employees, buy vehicles, and oblige many which escalate the costs. One ends up spending huge additional costs to the government as licence fee etc," said a man, wishing not to be named, who had been in this business for many years.
The draw of lots was held at Taj Palace in Faridkot amid tight security arrangements. The first draw was made by Mohammad Tayyab, deputy commissioner, Faridkot, which went to Gaurav Malhotra Sidakjot Singh and company.
"The circles in Faridkot are fairly mediocre and all the draws were made in a very transparent manner. The department will earn Rs 99 crore in 2015," said Umesh Bhandari, excise and taxation officer, Faridkot.