Punjab Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the state’s new Excise Policy slashing liquor prices by 20 per cent, reducing the group size to break monopoly, with a target revenue earning of Rs 6,000 crore. As the liquor policy for the next fiscal was tabled in the Cabinet, Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is learnt to have objected by saying that Punjab should implement the Liquor Corporation scheme under which the liquor will be be retailed by the state government.
He, according to sources, expressed surprise that there was no provision for the scheme in the policy for the next fiscal, sources. Sidhu is learnt to have told the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that a Cabinet sub committee should be formed to study the scheme. Sidhu’s suggestion was seconded by other ministers too. The CM, however, is learnt to have stayed non-committal. He told the Cabinet that they would consider the scheme in the 2019-20 fiscal.
The new policy, meanwhile, would help the state earn an additional revenue of Rs 900 crore. While the slashing of liquor prices is aimed at preventing the smuggling of liquor from neighbouring states which was witnessed during the current fiscal causing a loss to the state exchequer, the slashing the group size from Rs 40 crore to Rs 5 crore and increase in number of groups from the existing 84 to around 700 in the next fiscal would increase competition besides giving employment opportunities to many new entrants in the business, said Additional Chief Secretary, Excise and Taxation, MP Singh.
He said as per the directions of High Court, the Excise Policy has made it mandatory for the retailers to print minimum sale price (MSP) and maximum retail price (MSP) on the bottles. The difference between MSP and MRP would not be more than 12.5 per cent in case of festival demand and others. With the slashing in price, a PML (Punjab Made Liquor) bottle that was sold for Rs 250 would be available for Rs 205, he said.
The government has also reduced the quota of liquor by 32 per cent this year and cut down the number of vends from 5850 to 5700. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said they had promised in the manifesto that they would reduce the minimum guarantee quota (liquor to be sold by every contractor) of liquor by 5 per cent each fiscal to take people off drinking.
Under the new policy, cow cess levied by Municipal Corporations in cities two years ago has been done away with. The new Excise Policy now has levied Special Fee for Cow Development at Rs 5 per bottle. The policy has also abolished the “Uchanti” system. Under this system, the liquor that was not sold by the contractors due to excess quota earlier used to make way to states like Bihar and Rajasthan through the bootleggers.