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Posted: Monday, 14 October 2019 15:14

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Delhi Excise suspends Licenses of all 124 Department Stores*

Please read the note at the end

Oct 14: An unprecedented step by the Excise department of cancelling/suspending all the L-12/L12F licenses of all the 124 stores in Delhi and through another unprecedented step of Mr Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi signing the letter of suspension on 11 October shows the angst that he has gone through by personally checking out some stores, writes Subhash Arora who shares his anger but questions the role of excise department to let the licensees reach this level of dishonesty

According to the letter, he says ‘the Penalty proceedings were also initiated by the department. It was shocking to see that most of these department stores are de-facto liquor vends (in fact they are not allowed to sell any liquor- only wine and beer sales are allowed-editor) defeating the whole purpose of the scheme. The extent of the violation is so high that the entire L12/L12F license turns out to be a farce.’

‘Obviously, any responsible government cannot turn a blind eye to such large scale misuse of its policy. According lit is directed to suspend all these licenses. The government will subsequently bring a revamped scheme with necessary modifications to plug all loopholes based on our experiences and ground reality.’

With the letter Mr Sisodia has directed the Commissioner to submit a fresh proposal on the above lines to be submitted to the Cabinet.

A perfect example of ‘throwing the Baby out with bath water’!

When the 44 shops were sealed, we at delWine were also shocked and as upset with the trade as he was. We had in fact written that ‘where there is smoke, there is fire. It seems to apply in all businesses. A bit of leverage from the government and the businesses start to take advantage-similar to the Camel and the Arab in the tent story.  The action of sealing the 44 shops seems to be justified when you read the Statement of Mr. Sisodia.’

delWine had also raised another question- whether regular checks were being made by the excise department and whether such raids/surveys were carried out. ‘Nipping the evil in the bud is the need of the hour in the alcobev industry rather than wait for the proverbial camel to throw out the Arab out of the tent’ was our refrain.

‘Where there have been gross violations, it may be justified to suspend their licenses. But in case of genuine cases with minor violations, they could be fined as per the law and/or with a stern warning. They also need to quash the grapevine with rumours that the sudden harsh action before the elections is a way to extract money from businesses. Those selling 90% of their sales as wine and beer with an equivalent display of bottles, have made the gross violations and their licenses could be considered to be cancelled or suspended with or without  a heavy punitive fine and it would be justified. But the genuine businesses ought not to be harmed any more’, was our recommendation.

As an ardent supporter of AAP and their honesty plank, one cannot subscribe to the theory that other licensees have ‘influenced’ the government as their sales are suffering. L12/L12F was the only wise steps taken by the government promoting sales of softer beverages like wine and beer and delinking wine with liquor. The ladies while shopping could pick a bottle or two of the wine for dinner ,as is the norm in other countries. It was convenient for the customers to pick up wine stored at proper temperature and if the sales person was knowledgeable, he /she could increase the sales and truly help the customer pick wine.

Now the question arises, ‘What about the poor honest shop owner who has invested heavily in wine stocks?’ Apart from the monies of importers stuck up in market already suffering from such imbalances, the department store will also pay heavy penalty-not all of whom deserve the punishment.

Why were the excise people not vigilant enough? This license has been issued for several years now. Even AAP government has been through these licenses all their years of governance. Waking up suddenly and closing the stores-lock stock and barrel, is not the fair answer, neither is it a display of good governance.

While I am strictly against what a few of the black sheep have been seen to be doing, I am also shaken up a bit by the high handedness of the level seen in a dictatorship and would think twice before voting for the party next year- and there may be many of us honest voters who would do the same. delWine implores the minister to sit with a cool mind and sort out before the losses surmount as the potential loss of revenues (potential because, those desperate to drink would buy from other liquor vends even if the quality and variety is not as good. There is every chance of a few of the department stores going to court on the matter and they would be justified.

Subhash Arora

Circular dated 11 Oct

*P.S.- From our reliable sources, the stores have not yet been given the order to shut shop so far as wine and beer are concerned. The letter has been given to the Commissioner who has to get the sanction of the Lt. Governor who is the only person with the legal authority (it may be noted that 12 and 13 October were weekly holidays). The few department stores we surveyed refuse to talk anything more except that the matter we reported is accurate but they are praying that the LG has the pragmatic outlook and does not ruin their business by shutting them down They all agree that the cases pointed out by the Deputy CM are in West Delhi and apparently they wrangled the licenses due to the their clout before this government came into power. In that sense, we have unfortunately jumped the gun and hope that the licenses are not cancelled en masse after all as suggested by the Deputy CM. to the Commissioner- Editor





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