With the row over smuggling of liquor and excise losses to the state exchequer refusing to die down in Punjab, the Excise and Taxation Department Friday conducted stock-checks at 15 distilleries across the state, including those owned by CM Amarinder Singh’s aide and former Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh and another one by a business family associated with deceased liquor baron Ponty Chadha’s group.
After stock checking at all 15 distilleries, Principal Secretary, Excise and Taxation, A Venu Prasad transferred all Excise and Taxation
Officers (ETOs) and Excise Inspectors incharge of these distilleries with immediate effect. Prasad confirmed to The Indian Express that the department had done the stock checking in the distilleries.
A senior functionary of the Department, however, downplayed the stock-checking and said it was a “routine” exercise. “It should have been done in the past in March, but it was not conducted due to curfew in the state,” he said. He, however, refused to say anything on why the transfers of ETOs and Inspectors had been ordered.
Sources said the action followed reports that many distilleries had been brewing liquor during curfew and lockdown under the garb of manufacturing hand sanitisers.
The liquor contractors have lately been alleging that the distilleries had sold the liquor in black market thereby causing a loss to the state exchequer. They have been accusing the distilleries of supplying liquor even during the curfew ruing that when the vends opened they did not experience any rush of liquor buyers.
The issue of excise losses was also raised by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal at the controversial meeting on excise policy in
which the ministers walked out on Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh.
Later, CM’s Advisor Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, in a series of tweets, levelled allegations of conflict of interest against the CS thereby demanding his removal. The CM, who is also Excise Minister of state, divested the CS of the charge of Financial Commissioner, Taxation.
Only two days ago, Raja Warring, who was accompanied by PPCC president Sunil Jakhar and Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to a lunch meeting with the CM, had again raised the conflict of interest issue of CS. Sukhjinder Randhawa had raised the issue of distilleries selling liquor in black.
In the backdrop of this row, the government conducted the stock-checking on these distilleries.
On Thursday, the department had conducted a search at a distillery in Rajpura.
The checking Friday was conducted at distilleries in Banur in Mohali, Kiri Afghana in Gurdaspur, Hamira in Kapurthala, Amritsar, Bathinda and
Tarn Taran. While Chaddha group owns a distillery in Kiri Afghana, Rana Gurjeet Singh has it in Tarn Taran.
The department had also recently detected three illegal distilleries in the state and found that these were preparing liquor from Extra Neutral Alcohol supplied by the licensed distilleries. The state government had allowed the distilleries to manufacture sanitisers during curfew in view of Covid spread.
“As of now, the checks are going on. I cannot pinpoint the exact distilleries at this juncture that were involved in black-marketing. I
will get the report tomorrow and then we will know,” the senior government functionary said.
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