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Eknath Khadse’s scrapped hologram tender under lens

Officials say govt can meet objective without help of private players.

| Mumbai | Published: December 30, 2016 2:56:36 am

On August 19 this year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had scrapped a Rs 1,000-crore tender for using hologram technology on liquor bottles, which was approved by his Cabinet when Eknath Khadse was the excise minister. Now, four months later, the state’s bureaucracy has questioned the need for such a contract, putting the government in a tight spot.

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While accusations that the tender conditions and the process were tailored to favour certain big players in the packaging industry had prompted Fadnavis to cancel the tender, the bureaucracy has now questioned the technology’s usefulness in checking supply and consumption of spurious and duty-evaded liquor.

A report submitted by the state’s excise department has opposed the plan to allot a contract to supply security holograms, confirmed senior state officials.

The report, which was compiled after studying technologies adopted in other states, has observed that there was no guarantee that the hologram supplied by private firms would be tamper-proof.

It further says that the government’s objective can be met without involving private players. To achieve this, the department has developed an in-house software that can “monitor the journey of a beverage from the manufacturer to the final point of sale”. To add an additional security feature, the department has proposed that “security labels” printed by the Indian Security Press at Nashik be used on liquor bottles. “This feature will be integrated with the management software. Each bottle will have a unique and secure bar code which will store all details of its journey,” a senior official said. The department also has plans to develop a mobile application to allow scanning of the barcode, to confirm its genuineness.

Some other states have already adopted this technology, and it has better security features than the hologram technology, said senior officials. “There have been serious complaints regarding duplication of holograms supplied by private parties in some states,” said another source.

The government has also planned to install Global Positioning Devices on vehicles moving between licensed distilleries to enhance security features.

While the controversial proposal to involve private players and make it mandatory for liquor manufacturers to have hologram labels on liquor bottles was initiated by the previous Congress-NCP government, it gathered steam during Khadse’s tenure. The tender, which was eventually scrapped, had proposed that a contractor would be awarded the work for five years. The tender had estimated an annual hologram supply worth Rs 200 crore, or Rs 1,000 crore, over five years.

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