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Posted: Saturday, 30 July 2022 23:50

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Delhi Excise reverts to Old Liquor Policy for 6 Months

July 30: With allegations of impropriety and mishandling the current Excise Policy of 2021-22 under extension till July 31, 2022, the Delhi government has decided to revert to the old policy for the next 6 months, writes Subhash Arora who feels the government is in great discomfort as the mess it has entangled itself may not be easy to get out of, even as the resulting uncertainty does not bode well for the AAP government, business and the consumers alike, for now

‘Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!’ was the famous catchphrase spoken by Ollie, played by Oliver Hardy, in the film Sons of the Desert and used in many other films. One is reminded of the catchphrase when one realises that the Delhi government’s Excise department is once again in a  mess, despite the noble intentions.

While the stakeholders affected by the excise rules were waiting for the 2021-22 policy to be extended for another 2 months till September 30 (postponing annual policy for 4-6 months is a par for the course in Delhi), the excise department announced 2 days ahead of the deadline for the extended policy that the previous policy will be extended for 6 months, instead.

In all fairness, the Delhi government had announced a revenue growth-oriented policy, making use of Article 47 in its favour. Whatever the perceived or actual problems faced by the distributors or retailers, it purported to add a lot more to the government coffers with a revenue of Rs. 10,000 Cr (Rs. 10 billion) committed before even a single bottle was sold. But the scheme had inherent features that made the powerful and rich, some with no experience of marketing alcoholic beverages, to enter the arena, seeing a double rainbow through their powerful, coloured glasses.

Also Read : Delhi Excise Policy skewed in favour of Wholesalers, claim Retailers

The policy was marred with controversies from day one with delay in re-cranking of new Retail shops delayed till Diwali last year. A few of the 32 zone bidders in the policy, each subscribing over Rs. 300 Crores, even withdrew from the arena. Even those with a mediocre intelligence had betted on an increase in retail prices, but the market saw a price crash with happy customers enjoying 30-40% discount that became force de rigueur and domestic wines and liquor selling with BOGO offers, of ‘buy one get one free’!

Also Read : Blog: Delhi Excise -Thy Name is Enigma

The four governmental corporations —DSIIDC, DTTDC, DCCWS and DSCSC were running 475 liquor stores out of a total 864 in Delhi before the Excise Policy 2021-22 came into effect with the government deciding to opt out of retail sale of wine and liquor; a government report had pointed out they were even more corrupt than the private shops. The license of 849 liquor vends were issued to private firms through open bidding. The city was divided into 32 zones with each having a maximum of 27 vends. Instead of individual licences, bidding was done zone-wise and each bidder allowed to bid for a maximum of two zones.

There were murmurs of corruption in the bidding and allocation process, with the central government claiming bungling in the process and insinuating that the Delhi ruling party AAP had been somehow involved. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had even disclosed in a recent Press Conference that he had feared for the past 2-3 months that CBI would soon arrest his deputy Manish Sisodia whom he supports to the hilt as an honest man.

Also Read : Blog: Delhi Excise 21-22 Policy means more Obfuscation

With the whispers turning into rumbling, the local government seems to have chosen this path to cut down any political loss. It is yet to be seen how the current announcement will get us out of this quagmire, with the shortfall in the target of Rs. 10,000 Crores likely to increase now and several court cases may soon be in the offing.

BJP, which rules the country, had alleged that the policy was drafted with the objective of creating a monopoly in the Alcobev market. It was tailor-made for only a handful of wholesalers since one of the eligibility conditions to bid for a wholesaler’s license (L-1) was minimum annual revenue of Rs 150 crore during the previous 3 years, thus eliminating small players from the bidding process.

Also Read : Whopping Jump in Tax Revenue assured for Delhi Excise in 2021-22

The department is still working on the Excise Policy 2022-23 that recommends innovative ideas like home delivery. Reportedly, the draft policy has not even been sent to the LG-, Vinai Kumar Saxena yet for his approval so far. The old excise policy will be implemented for the next six months as the Delhi government is working to streamline a new policy for 2022-23, according to Sisodia.

Meanwhile, the consumer will suffer once again and perhaps rush back to Gurgaon for their daily fix of alcoholic drinks and the country will continue to smirk about the uncertainties in the liquor excise policy of Delhi.

Subhash Arora

 

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