Suspecting corruption and dubious financial dealings, the BJP government on Wednesday put aside the liquor policy of the previous Congress government and scrapped the Himachal Pradesh Beverages Limited (HPBL) — a PSU set-up in July 2016 to run wholesale liquor trade .
The decision was taken at a special Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, held at the Vidhan Sabha complex. The Cabinet also decided to order a probe into all irregularities in the liquor business and fix responsibility on the government officials for causing losses to the state exchequer.
Though the HPBL was mandated to procure liquor stock from the manufacturing companies and then release it to the retailers, it has been learnt that the PSU favoured certain individuals who were given licences like L -1D and L -13D to set-up their own storages/depots.
“It was decided that the HP Beverage Limited will be wound up in due course and the old system of wholesale will be restored. The wholesale liquor licenses will be given to the Himachalis,” a senior government official confirmed. He said the Cabinet had also decided to reverse the decision of the Virbhadra Singh government on excise policy and decided to discontinue L-1D and L-13 D licences.
Reports said the HPBL had issued 56 licences favouring individuals and companies. “There were people at higher–ups involved who used to get regular handling charges of Rs 48 per box. The amount runs into several crores,” a preliminary internal inquiry report said. Further, there were certain liquor traders who had not paid arrears to the tune of Rs 17 crores to the HPBL, but they were still getting the supplies .
The Excise and Taxation department will discuss the modalities of the probe, which may include lodging of an FIR. Several BJP MLAs, some of them now ministers, had raised the issue of corruption in the liquor trade in the assembly previously. The allegation is also a part of the BJP’s chargesheet submitted to Governor Acharya Devvrat.