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Punjab’s excise revenue growth from liquor has dipped under Cong

The state registered negative growth in excise revenue for fiscal 2018-19, collecting Rs 5,072 crore, against Rs 5,135 crore in 2017-18. For the fiscal-ended March 31, there has been a slight increase (2.5%) in revenue over the past year at Rs 5,200 crore
Hindustan Times, Punjab | By Vishal Rambani
UPDATED ON MAY 10, 2020 11:51 PM IST

Patiala Even as Punjab’s politicians and bureaucrats are engaged in a turf battle over excise policy for liquor amid the pandemic, an analysis of data shows its increase in revenue from the trade (in terms of percentage) has dipped over the past two fiscal years.

The period corresponds with the Congress taking charge of the government in March 2017.

The state registered negative growth in excise revenue for fiscal 2018-19, collecting Rs 5,072 crore, against Rs 5,135 crore in 2017-18. For the fiscal-ended March 31, there has been a slight increase (2.5%) in revenue over the past year at Rs 5,200 crore.

The figure of Rs 5,200 crore, however, is a whopping Rs 1,000 crore short of its target of Rs 6,201 crore that the state had set in the budget. The excise revenue from liquor was clocked at Rs 5,135 crore for 2017-18, against target of Rs 5,422 crore. Revenue dipped to Rs 5,072 crore in 2018-19, before dipping to Rs 5,200 crore (not the final figure) last fiscal that ended on March 31 this year.

The state’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has listed out the data in its accounting reports. Even though the actual target were also not met in SAD-BJP regime, but there was significant growth of revenue.

Some of the reasons for the dipping revenue are flawed policy, poor implementation and interference of politician-contractor nexus, sources said. Politicians never ask for actual realised revenue, ensuring that some in the officialdom take them for a ride, they claim.

Contrary to negative cumulative excise revenue growth under the Congress, the SAD-BJP had recorded 46% growth cumulatively. Under them, from a base of Rs 3,000 crore in 2012, the revenue collection rose to Rs 4,796 crore in 2015-16.

A state government official admitted, on condition of anonymity, “Even though the actual target was not even met in SAD-BJP regime, but there was a significant growth of revenue. They almost jacked up revenue from Rs 1,800 crore in four years of SAD-BJP regime. However, now either there is no growth, or negative growth. We are falling short of targeted revenue in budget by 15%.”

Admitting that revenue collection had dipped and growth had halted, an official said, “We usually see a dip in revenue in an assembly election year. However, a dip every year is a cause for concern.”

He claimed contractors had been able to manipulate policy, with liquor sold in large quantity in the state even during curfew and lockdown, and on top of that there was demand for relaxation.

The official added, “The government needs to seal all liquor godowns and conduct a physical verification of stock. It must also be probed that how is an illegal distillery functioning in Khanna.”

Punjab chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh, who holds the charge of excise and taxation department, could not be contacted for comments. Excise and taxation commissioner Vivek Partap Singh did not respond to repeated calls on his phone.

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STRAP/BLURB

Targeted revenue has also not been achieved, with just a slight increase in collection seen for the fiscal that has just ended, an analysis of CAG reports show

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