Amid severe criticism for failing to check the drug menace in the state, the cash-starved Punjab government has had to bow before more than hundred village panchayats which have raised voice against opening of liquor vend 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 them. They have to come clean by stopping illegal sale of liquor vends.
Talking to the HT, excise and taxation commissioner of Punjab Anurag Verma said, "A total of 134 village panchayats of 21 districts of the state, have passed resolutions against liquor vends in their villages and have also submitted written copies to the excise and taxation department to take immediate steps."
"Taking cognisance of the sentiments of the village panchayats concerned, the excise and taxation department has accepted the demand of 107 village panchayats, whereas the requests of the remaining 27 have been rejected on the ground that there have been convictions in these villages in the past two years for sale of illegal liquor," he added.
When asked about the revenue loss to the state exchequer due to closure of 107 liquor vends in the state, he said, "We have not calculated the losses yet, as we have several other locations in the state, where liquor vends could be opened, and this will be decided during the auction."
Sources, in the state excise and taxation department said that following Punjab and Haryana high court's ruling, the government has decided to accept the demands of the village panchayats and the excise department is now filing replies to the concerned village panchayats.
In the letters written to the sarpanchas, copies of which are present with HT, the excise and taxation commissioner has also mentioned the details of the recovery of illegal liquor from these villages, and details of the pending cases against the people, who were involved in the sale of illegal liquor, but the vends will not be opened in the villages where conviction has been announced by the court for illegal sale of liquor.
As per the letter, the decision of not opening liquor vends will be applicable only for 2015-16. For ensuing years village panchayats will have to repeat the same procedure against the liquor vends.
The high court had directed the state government to file a reply on the issue by January 28 on the basis of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sangrur-based Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum.
This year, the government is expecting a revenue of almost Rs 4,671 crore. AS Mann of the Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum, in PIL said that under Section 40 of the Panchayati Raj Act, the gram panchayats can pass resolutions in the prescribed manner before 30th September of a year, seeking closure of liquor vend in their gram sabha area with effect from the first day of April next year.
No boozing here
Number of district-wise panchayatsa that have passed a resolution against liquor vends
Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Ferozepur: 5