Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AP State Liquor Bluffs!


The Government and the ruling party claim that they are carrying out “An intensive campaign to educate the public about the evil effects of drinking” and thus restrict and gradually prevent consumption of liquor through its Prohibition and Excise Department!
The ground reality as seen from recent Anti-corruption Bureau revelations; is quite contrary. Several ministers including the Excise Minister and many MLAs from the ruling party and the opposition are involved in running liquor business legally and some of them illegally. All of them are sincerely pursuing the business for profits and by no means to educate the people about evils of liquor consumption! And as we all know, at every given opportunity especially during elections liquor is distributed in unbelievable quantities by these leaders among the electorate as a bribe to vote for them.
The Government makes every possible effort to earn money on liquor. With the previous policy that has just concluded the Government first earns money by sale of Licenses to liquor outlets through auctions. Then it earns money through sale of liquor to these outlets and collection of various taxes on these sales. As you can see in the above chart, the State Government has earned Rs. 3,991 Crores through auctions and a total amount of Rs. 14,250 Crores in the year 2010-11. And to impress us that they are not interested in sale of liquor they take pride in telling us that there are just 6,596 liquor outlets in the State since several years and they do not want to expand any further.
Auctions led to large scale irregularities. Shop owners obtained licenses by bidding heavy amounts and to compensate this investment they resorted to selling liquor at higher prices than legally permitted (MRP) and from outlets other than the shops licensed to them, through what are known as belt shops. This sort of business went unchecked for almost two years profiting the shop owners and those who overlooked these wrong doings. And the Government which remained blind and deaf to these malpractices was content and happy with its earnings. Suddenly all the irregularities were exposed in the past few months.
Disappointed, the Government talked extensively about operating the liquor shops as in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In these States; liquor shops are operated directly by the respective State Governments. AP Government sent out teams to study the operations in these two States and then finally abandoned this good scheme. It is once again resorting to easy additional revenue earning tactics. Instead of directly operating these Liquor shops they are now in the process of issuing licenses by lottery and collecting a hefty license fee from these shops depending on the population in the areas of the shops. They are expecting to earn an amount of over Rs. 200 Crores just by sale of application forms (lottery tickets) for this lottery and then an amount of Rs. 2,650 Crores as license fee from the winners of the lottery and total revenue from liquor business for the year 2012-13 close to Rs. 1,500 Crores . With private operators there would be once again irregularities and thousands of unauthorised outlets making liquor available at higher than permitted prices; in every nook and corner of the State, even at places near Temples, Highways, Colleges etc., which is against law.
By running these shops departmentally the Government would be losing the Application and License fees amounting to Rs.200 Crores plus Rs. 2,650 Crores and further incur expenditure on staff, facilities and operations, which it does not want to. It just wants easy money on Liquor and wants the sales to boost by hook or crook so that there is daily cash flow into its coffers which it can use for various vote generating schemes! So why would they be interested in the ill effects of excessive drinking and its impact on society as long as there is cash flowing into the coffers of the State. What if alcohol addiction is increasing, drunken driving-accidents and deaths are common, crime due to alcohol is on the rise and thousands of families suffer as their bread winners spend large part of their earnings on liquor.
Finally to say that the Government respects prohibition, the sale of liquor is strictly prevented on three days in a year that is on Republic Day, Independence Day and on Gandhi Jayanti Day. It is a different matter that the sale of liquor goes up by leaps and bounds prior to these holidays, ensuring substantial revenue to the Government and availability of liquor to the people during these national holidays.

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