Jan 19: The Excise Police for the next Financial Year for Madhya Pradesh allows the sale of liquor at all State airports in the state and select supermarkets in four big cities, issue home bar licenses and wine prepared from grapes grown by farmers in MP will be made excise-duty free, writes Subhash Arora who feels that the policy is pragmatic, in tune with times and will also add higher revenue to the tax kitty
The Excise Policy 2022-23, approved by the state Cabinet yesterday (18 January), foresees a cut of 20 % in the retail prices of liquor in a bid to make them practical, more pragmatic and competitive. Select supermarkets in 4 big cities- Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior will also be allowed to sell wine and liquor.
The policy envisages encouragement for the growth of the local wine industry with the complete waiver of excise duty on wines made from grapes grown in the State. This mirrors the Policy in Maharashtra over 20 years ago when the neighbouring progressive State had issued a 10-year policy that was extended further by 10 years, making Maharashtra a leading producer of wine in India. There are already a handful of producers and the number is likely to go up with this new policy.
Under the new Excise Policy all the airports in MP will be allowed to sell wine and liquor. Licenses will also be issued to select supermarkets in Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur and Gwalior at a fixed license fee, according to the New Indian Express.
The Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also cleared the Madhya Pradesh Heritage (Traditional) Liquor Policy.
Home bar license will be issued- at a rather high annual fee of Rs 50,000 to applicants. But what seems confusing is that the applicant must have an annual individual income of Rs 10 million or more. This could be challenged in Courts as discriminatory.
Bar licenses will be issued at concessional rates to temporary units being operated by the Eco-Tourism Board and the Tourism Development Corporation at tourist places. The state government has also decided to simplify the liquor import process.
Interestingly, one can see a bright future for microbreweries as they are allowed to be set up in Bhopal and Indore for now, subject to No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to be issued by local civic bodies and the electricity department and after securing environmental clearance.
All the liquor outlets will now be composite shops from where traders can sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), Country Made liquor and beer together. This is expected to curb the sale of illegal alcohol.
District-level high power committees that include the collector and MLAs will be empowered to change locations of liquor shops, if needed, under the new excise policy which also has a provision to allow use of tetra packs for packaging and QR codes to check the authenticity of the product.
As expected from opposition, Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath has voiced his opinion that the excise policy will encourage liquor consumption. ‘The BJP government wants to take alcohol to every household even though deaths due to spurious liquor are happening in the state, the former chief minister alleged.
It is a known fact that Nath is himself fond of drinking expensive wines. In fact when he was a minister in the Congress ministry at the center, he was once clicked by a newspaper with a glass of red wine in his hand when he quipped,’ I may not be the minister tomorrow when the high command finds out in your newspaper!’
Nath should know that deaths due to spurious liquor take place when the availability is a constraint or the poor cannot afford even the cheap country made liquor. Case in point is Bihar where there has been prohibition for the last 6 years. 8 people died last Friday when they drank illicit liquor in the Nalanda district. This has become a routine with 24 of them dying due to drinking hooch on November 21; another 16 had died in July last year, according to Media Reports.
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