Amid criticism for failing to check drug menace in the state, the cash-starved Punjab government has had to bow before more than 100 panchayats that objected to the renewal of licences to liquor vends in their respective villages.
However, the demands of a few panchayats could not be accepted as they had cases of sale of illegal liquor pending against their villagers.
Talking to HT, excise and taxation commissioner, Punjab, Anurag Verma said, “A total of 134 village panchayats of 21 districts passed resolutions against liquor vends in their villages and also submitted written copies to the excise and taxation department to take immediate steps.”
“Taking cognisance of the resolutions, the department has accepted the demand of 107 village panchayats, whereas the requests of 27 others have been rejected on the ground that there have been convictions in these villages in the past two years for the sale of illegal liquor,” he added.
When asked about the revenue loss to the state exchequer due to the closure of 107 liquor vends, he said, “We have not yet calculated the losses as we have several other locations in the state where liquor vends can be opened.”
Sources in the excise and taxation department stated that following the Punjab and Haryana high court ruling, the government had decided to accept the demands of panchayats and the department was now filing replies to the panchayats concerned.
In the letters written to the sarpanches, copies of which are with Hindustan Times, the excise and taxation commissioner has mentioned the details of the recovery of illegal liquor from these villages and pending cases against the people involved in the sale of illegal liquor.
As per the letter, the decision of not opening liquor vends will be applicable only for 2015-16. For the ensuing years, the panchayats will have to repeat the procedure.
The high court had directed the state government to file a reply on the issue by January 28 following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sangrur-based Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum (SASWF).
This year, the government is expecting revenue of almost Rs 4,671 crore from across the state through the sale of licences to liquor shops and excise collections from the sale of liquor.
In the PIL, AS Mann of the SASWF said under Section 40 of the Panchayati Raj Act, gram panchayats can pass resolutions in the prescribed manner before September 30 of a year, seeking closure of liquor vends in their gram sabha area with effect from April 1 of the ensuing year. firstname.lastname@example.org
Panchayats that have passed resolutions against liquor vends (district-wise)
5 Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Ferozepur
1 Bathinda, Fazilka, Muktsar, Faridkot and Moga