No takers for ‘Patiala pegs’ in Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s hometown
Traders have formed a cartel and decided to not to apply for vends to press the government to reduce prices; they want to scuttle the draw of lots and apply through tenders insteadpunjab Updated: Apr 06, 2017 13:27 IST
The spirits are low in this Punjab city associated with India’s signature drink measure — the Patiala peg.
A tempest in the whiskey glass is stirring as not a single trader has come forward, at least till Wednesday, to run licensed liquor shops in chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s hometown.
The traders have formed a cartel and asked the government to reduce prices, arguing that bootlegging from neighbouring Haryana and Chandigarh is spiriting away their profit.
“The contractors suffered losses because of smuggling of liquor from Haryana and Chandigarh. That’s why no one is coming forward to apply for a fresh contract. The rates must be decreased at least 20%. Only then we will apply,” a liquor trader said.
The business, for the record, goes like this — the government offers an annual contract to parties interested in running liquor shops in the city, which is divided into three excise zones with maximum 50 vends in each.
They have to sell a minimum quota of bottles, for which the traders pay taxes in advance.
Contracts are awarded through a draw of lots after the applications are collected. If the no one applies, the application process is shelved and tenders are floated. That allows traders to quote lower prices.
Tuesday was the last day to apply, and no one did. The response prompted the deputy excise commissioner to give time till March 30.
The liquor shops will remain closed till the entire process is over: applications, tenders, et al. Until then, Patialvis will have to wash down tandoori tikkas with their dry day stocks, or drive down to Haryana and Chandigarh.
A similar scenario is playing out in neighbouring Sangrur district. No application has been received for liquor vends there too.
In fact, the process to give fresh contracts for 5,900 alcohol shops across the state has received a diluted response.
But excise officials are optimistic that the state’s liquor revenue won’t dip from the Rs 5,400 crore collected in the 2016-17 fiscal.
The optimism stems probably from the Patiala peg, roughly equivalent to 120ml, a volume that can dry out a bottle in no time. As long as the Patiala is around, it’s more bottles and good sales.