Amid an ongoing police investigation into the Delhi government’s new excise policy and a faceoff with the Lt Governor who has sought a CBI probe, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced Saturday that the government is rolling back the new policy.
From August 1, liquor will be sold only through government outlets in the Capital.
“We have decided to end the new policy and given directions for government shops to open… I have ordered the Chief Secretary to ensure that there should be no corruption in government shops and no illegal alcohol sold in Delhi… I have given directions that there should be no chaos during the transition period,” Sisodia said at a press conference.
He said the number of liquor shops will not exceed 850 – as under the previous policy. There is no clarity yet on whether the number of dry days will increase or remain the same.
Hitting out at the BJP, Sisodia said, “In Gujarat, alcohol is prohibited but illegal liquor (nakli sharab) worth thousands of crores is sold there, by taking the government for a ride. It’s spurious liquor, due to which people have died… ye saara dhanda inke hi log chalate hain (this whole business is run by their people)… There are multiple cases of people dying but this illegal sale of liquor is flourishing. This is the Gujarat model.”
“The other is the Delhi model. Our government brought a new excise policy last year before which alcohol was sold in government outlets that were prone to corruption – from brand pushing to many other such things. Some shops were private but that was given to their friends, and a very minimal licence fee was charged from them. We finished this system and started a new policy,” he said.
“We will not let BJP sell even a drop of spurious liquor in Delhi. We are standing firm on our ground to fail BJP’s nefarious plans,” he said.
Earlier, the revenue from liquor sales was Rs 6,000 crore annually, and under the new policy, the aim was Rs 9,500 crore, he said.
“But because corruption stopped, a plan was hatched by these people to ensure the failure of the new policy. One by one, they threatened private players in the name of ED and CBI. Many of them shut shop. Under the new policy, there could have been 850 shops (like earlier) but currently, 468 are operational,” he said.
The new excise policy was introduced in Delhi in November last year. It made sweeping changes to the nature and functioning of liquor trade in the city. The government exited the customer-end of the trade entirely, shutting all government-run liquor vends, and sale of liquor was handed over exclusively to private players. Before the policy was implemented, there were 849 liquor shops in the city.
As reported by The Indian Express, an exodus of liquor vendors from nine zones in the city has led to the shutting down of 176 liquor shops between June and July this year. Another 108 shops could shut in the coming days.
“From August 1, many others (private players) will also follow suit (to close). Their aim is to create an alcohol shortage in Delhi. Their aim is to keep reducing the quantum of legal liquor being sold in Delhi… They want to encourage the sale of illegal, non-duty paid, and spurious liquor… They have threatened even the Delhi government officials in the name of ED and CBI, that they are not even ready to give tenders or licences for the shops that are being vacated,” he said.
Apart from the investigation by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police into the new excise policy, the Lt Governor has also sought a CBI probe, based on a report by the Chief Secretary.
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The report alleged undue benefits to liquor vend licencees in lieu of “kickbacks” and “commissions” and use of the money in the Punjab elections.
At the press conference, Sisodia also cited data from BJP-ruled states, and said in Gurgaon, there was one alcohol shop for 4,166 people. In Noida, Bengaluru, and Goa, there was one shop for 1,390, 1,2189, and 761 people, respectively.
“In Delhi, even if maximum shops had opened (850), the figure would have been one alcohol shop for 22,707 people. With 468 shops, it is one shop for 41,192 people,” he said.