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SC ban, delayed auctions trigger inter-district smuggling of liquor

The Supreme Court ban on the sale of liquor within 500m of national and state highways coupled with delay in liquor vend auctions have triggered a situation in which a majority of contractors are smuggling liquor from adjoining districts where the licence fee is comparatively lower.

punjab Updated: Apr 21, 2017 12:43 IST
Sumeer Singh
Sumeer Singh
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Supreme Court ban,sale of liquor,licence fee
Inter-district smuggling is rampant especially among small scale liquor contractors who are trying to compensate for losses incurred from the ban and sluggish tendering process. (HT File )

The Supreme Court ban on the sale of liquor within 500m of national and state highways coupled with delay in liquor vend auctions have triggered a situation in which a majority of contractors are smuggling liquor from adjoining distrcits where the licence fee is comparatively lower.

Inter-district smuggling is rampant especially among small scale liquor contractors who are trying to compensate for losses incurred from the ban and sluggish tendering process. Sources said contractors were procuring liquor from adjoining districts such as Phillaur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Amloh, Mandi Gobindgarh, Khamano and Bassi Pathana at cheaper rates and were selling it for an exorbitant price here.

Small-time contractors minting large amounts of money

As 30% of 683 liquor shops were yet to start their operations in Ludhiana, small-time contractors were minting large amounts of money by procuring hundreds of cartons of illicit liquor. Whisky brands that were unavailable in the district were being brought in illegally through escape routes.

Habib Khan, one of the owners of liquor baron Avinash Doda’s company which swept all 23 zones for ₹755 crore in the district, said, “There are still 200 liquor shops which could not be opened in the district. Leave aside daily losses that run into crores, we are also losing out on ₹2.5 crore daily (₹755 crore licence fee against 365 days in a year) as revenue including other levies paid as licence fee for these vends.”

He added, “It is for police and excise department officials to ensure a crackdown on the liquor mafia as it is rampant especially after the SC ban and delayed auctions this year.”

The contractors are also staring at shifting more than 100 liquor vends in the district. According to them, this move will be a “tough nut to crack”.

Govt’s crusade against liquor mafia “facade”

Liquor contractors dubbed the newly-formed Congress government’s crusade against the liquor mafia as a “façade”. They said instead of swooping down on those who provided patronage to illegal supply of liquor across districts, it gave its tacit approval to let that side flourish unabashedly.

The contractors even termed the promise by the government to open special police stations on the outskirts of the districts to curb smuggling in the state as a “bait” to lure the liquor lobby to conform to the altered liquor policy which posed a serious risk to the profit margins of the contractors.

Parminder Singh, a well-known name in the liquor business, said, “Inter-district smuggling by small-time liquor contractors is harming us more than the SC ban or delayed auction of liquor vends. Now it is a matter for police to act against the liquor mafia to safeguard business interests of the contractors in the district.”

Delayed label passing affecting sales

Owing to a delayed label passing, the fresh stocks of popular whisky and beer brands are not available in the market. The delay in labelling has caused a major shortage of liquor in the district, thereby triggering the liquor mafia to become active.

First Published: Apr 21, 2017 12:42 IST