In family spirit, women make mark in Punjab’s liquor trade
The prime example is Jasdeep Kaur Chadha, who was into the business before too, but this time has taken away a major chunk of the business in Jalandhar, Mohali, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr.punjab Updated: Mar 31, 2018 10:32 IST
Call them proxies, or as spirited as the men who dominated the trade. These are women from families already into the liquor business in Punjab who now are names on which contracts have been won, in an apparent bid to follow the tweaked norms for the 2018-19 fiscal beginning April 1.
As the excise department divided the state into smaller groups (sets of vends in particular areas) to encourage wider participation by smaller players with lower investment potential too, wives and daughters of established contractors took part in the draws of lots to increase the families’ chances.
The prime example is Jasdeep Kaur Chadha, who was into the business before too, but this time has taken away a major chunk of the business in Jalandhar, Mohali, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr. Her entry into Mohali in particular has left some local contractors worried.
Jasdeep is the widow of Hardeep Singh Chadha, who along with his elder brother, liquor and realty baron Ponty Chadha, had died in cross-firing over a property dispute in New Delhi in 2012. After her husband’s death, Jasdeep took over. She refused to talk to HT.
Officials in the excise department who did not want to be named said she applied for 2,500 groups and had a high success rate. “It was purely a big gamble she played; filed 2,500 applications spending Rs 4.5 crore,” said an official.
Also, Usha and Divya Singla, family members of established contractor Arvind Singla, have pitched in to support the family business. The Singlas, who are Chadha’s partners, applied for 700 groups. Dimpi Malhotra, wife of former Shiromani Akali Dal MLA and liquor baron Deep Malhotra made applications for 500 groups, and took away Bathinda and surrounding areas.
The need to bring in more of the family arose because the new excise policy divided the state into 730 groups instead of 87 in the previous policy. All groups have been sold out, earning a revenue of Rs 255 crore in bids and Rs 80 crore as application fee (at Rs 18,000 per application per group).
“It’s good that women are entering the liquor business,” said additional excise and taxation commissioner Gurtej Singh, adding, “They are doing well in every field now, and in liquor trade too!”
One of the women in the business, while refusing to be quoted for this report, said the retail scenario is good this time as the fixed quota system (sales target) has been eased. The number of vends has been reduced by 200, to 5,700, and the targeted revenue is Rs 5,800 crore, up from the 2017-18 target of Rs 5,200 crore.
It must be noted that businesses of other established names in the liquor trade – Amrik Singh Dhillon and Balbir Singh Sidhu — have shrunk. They did not bring any female relatives into the business.
The liquor baronesses
Jasdeep Kaur Chadha: Took over liquor and transport business that was her husband’s share after his death in 2012 in shootout with brother Ponty Chadha. She shuttles between Delhi and Punjab. She’s a daughter of Harvinder Singh Sarna, a prominent religio-political leader of Delhi.
Dimpi Malhotra: After her husband Deep Malhotra became MLA on SAD ticket in 2012 (and lost in 2017), Dimpi has been with her husband like a shadow in public and political life. In business, she acts as his proxy.