Ironically, the Congress party, the commanding force in the UPA also won the Delhi state elections earlier this year, raising the hopes of denizens that it would finally implement the long-promised policy of allowing supermarkets to sell wine like in Maharashtra, Karnataka and the bordering Haryana. Instead, the government threw a bombshell by announcing a steep increase in the excise duties that came close to the excise duty of 200% for the higher end wines, practically choking the sale of fine wines.
It would seem logical that either the cash-rich liquor lobby or inducement from Maharashtra and Karnataka prevailed and the excise duties on imported wine were enhanced, bringing the curtain down on the fine wines by making them too expensive for most.
With the Maharashtra government reducing the excise duties to an acceptable level, and practically admitting the diktat of the Indian Agriculture Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar that wine should be treated as an agro product, the Delhi government will feel the heat soon and would have to fall in line-the pressure from EU and WTO not to be forgotten.
The latest action from the government had a pleasant side effect-the importers got united finally and made an association through which they can at least have a meaningful dialogue rather than suffering silently and fearfully. During the first couple of meetings, before the Maharashtra breather came, the authorities had given a patient hearing to the group and promised that the policy would be reviewed in three months.
One hopes that the government takes the reverse gear soon. It is already losing excise duty because of the crumbling sales. And, if Maharashtra and soon Karnataka bring the duties down, could Delhi be far? Hopefully, it is not. It does appear, Ab Dilli Door Nahin.
Cav. Subhash Arora