To ease the deadlock between the government and liquor contractors in Punjab, who have refused to open liquor vends citing losses, the state government has decided to budge as the Excise and Taxation Department has suggested amendment in the Excise Policy for the current fiscal to give relief to the contractors.
The policy was tabled in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday but the discussion was deferred as the ministers stated that the policy was shared with them just 10 minutes prior to the meeting. While the ministers suggested the amendment should be discussed next week, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is learnt to have ordered holding another Cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon as the opening of vends was getting delayed.
The Excise Department has suggested three options for providing relief to the contractors including reducing the licence fee, extending the financial year (for the contractors) by 42 days (the time during which there was a lockdown in state and the vends were not allowed to open from April 1 to May 3) and reducing the quota of the liquor to be sold by the contractors. The Cabinet will take a call on the issue.
The three options have been suggested after a committee headed by Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh was constituted to look into the issue. Liquor vends in most parts of the state, except in Mohali and Ropar, were not opened even after the state government ordered the opening.
The vends stayed shut for the second consecutive day starting Thursday. The contractors association had also met the Excise and Taxation Comissioner, Punjab, Vivek Partap Singh on Friday and got an assurance that the government was preparing to provide them relief.
As per the report of the committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, the report has factored in several points including that vends could not do any business during 42 days of lockdown, and also the vends were closed during last fiscal from March 23 to March 31 also.
The committee has also suggested that the licences of the contractors should be renewed during the period of those nine days of last fiscal also.
As per the three options, the committee has recommended that the licences should be extended for 13 months starting from May 7 this year. This option would cost the state Rs 408 crore.
Another option is to reduce the Minimum Guarantees Quota (MGQ) of the liquor to be sold.
The third option is to cut down the licence fee of the contractors for the corresponding period of lockdown. The report has stated that at a target of Minimum Guaranteed Revenue (MGR) of Rs 4,894 crore for current fiscal, the excise on the minimum guarantee quota is Rs 3,884 crore. It turns out to be Rs 10.78 crore everyday and for 37 days turns out to be Rs 400 crore.
Home delivery from 9 am to 11 pm
The report, while stating that the curfew or lockdown could be extended in the year due to COVID-19 threat and vends in several areas may have to be shut down again, has recommended that home delivery option should be allowed to the contractors from 9 am to 11 pm.
The Cabinet is also likely to discuss the Corona Tax on Saturday. A Cabinet minister said the issue would be taken up tomorrow. “We are going to raise it. If Delhi can have 70 per cent Corona Tax, Haryana and Rajasthan too could levy this tax then why should Punjab not?” he asked.
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