June 11: Himachal Pradesh (HP) seems have taken a step ahead of Delhi and allowed the sale of not only imported wine and beer but also whiskey in big departmental stores- a step that had been withdrawn in 2018, ostensibly to augment tax revenues of the State and improve tourism, according to the new excise policy for 2021-22 announced by the Cabinet on Monday, writes Subhash Arora
Quality liquor, including wine, whisky and beer-both Indian and imported labels, will be allowed to be sold in big departmental stores having a minimum area of 500 sq. ft. and annual sales of over Rs 2 crore (20 million), on obtaining an annual license costing Rs. 5 lakhs (Rs. 500,000).
The departmental stores will have to buy their requirement from the wholesalers with L2 License, at the fixed rates. They may dedicate a maximum of 10 percent of the store area for storage and display of wines and other alcoholic beverages.
Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur of the BJP-controlled government, chaired the meeting in which it was also announced that the excise year 2020-21 would be extended by another month till June 30. The new policy will thus be operational for 9 months, from 1 July 2021, to 31 March 2022.
The new policy has been envisaged keeping in view that the Excise Department could not achieve the target of Rs 1,778 crore last year. The actual recovery of Rs 1,601 crore, resulted in a shortfall of Rs 177 crore, the loss being primarily due to Covid. Due to the lockdown, the department suffered a reported revenue loss of Rs 200 crore (collections were only Rs 100 crore against the budgeted amount of Rs 300 crore) in April and May last year.
This decision is expected to give a boost to tourism and bring in a revenue of about Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore, said Excise and Taxation Commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur. Family tourists and women who are uncomfortable in going to liquor shops, will get wine at these stores.
This is not the first time the departmental stores have been able to enter the fray in marketing alcoholic products. The policy was popular earlier from 2001 till 2018 when it was discontinued. As many as 14 departmental stores in the state are on record selling alcohol. A similar law was enacted in Delhi a few years ago but only for beer and wine. It was repealed a couple of years ago due to complaints of corruption and mismanagement received by the Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.
A new licence for serving liquor in tented accommodation has also been approved. New licences for visitor centres in wine manufacturing units and wine tasting festivals have also been allowed.
Licence fee for CSD canteens has been reduced and facility of liquor canteen license in L-9 & L-9A has been allowed to all Central Armed Police Forces. The price of adding a sub-vend has been significantly reduced and penalty on unlifted quota has been rationalised.
All in all, it appears to be a progressive policy, at least for the wine consumers in Himachal Pradesh, including foreign tourists, domestic visitors and women.
Meanwhile, the government of Delhi allowed today through a gazetted notification, the home delivery of wine and beer for those holding L13 licenses although no one in the trade seems to know how much the license would cost and when it would be actually issued.
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