As bootleggers make hay, excise dept to crack down on distillery owners
EXCISE OFFICIALS FEAR FALL IN REVENUE THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF THE WIDESPREAD ILLEGAL LIQUOR TRADE
CHANDIGARH: The spurt in bootlegging cases has raised concerns of the Punjab excise and taxation department and the authorities. In a meeting on Tuesday, the department decided to book distillery owners for selling liquor to those in illegal trade.
Since April 1 this year, at least 1,000 FIRs have been registered with regard to illegal liquor trade. A senior excise official on condition of anonymity said 80,000 litres of country-made liquor was seized and 50,000 cartons of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) were seized. Home-made liquor (lahan) is not included in the excise department’s data.
“The total cases registered against bootleggers in 2017 were one-third of the FIRs registered in first seven months this fiscal, which shows the spurt in illegal liquor trade,” an official said.
“Things are getting out of control, so we are left with no option but to take action against the owners of the distilleries for selling liquor to the bootleggers,” adds the official. He said the warnings given to the distillers have not brought the desired response.
There are seven distilleries in the state which have been put under the scanner, said the officer, who didn’t wish to reveal his identity, adding “huge interests of higher-ups were involved”.
The excise department has detected a parallel illicit liquor trade. As per an estimate by the excise department, in seven months since April 1, 1,200 jeeps and 250 trucks transporting illicit liquor were intercepted. The department has sought help from the state police to deal with the situation.
Against last year’s (2017-18) target of ₹4,412 crore from excise tax, department earned ₹5,125 crore, an increase of 15%. The target for current financial year (2018-19) is ₹5,800 crore and the officials feel they need to stop bootlegging to register same kind of revenue increase.
“The bootleggers are making huge money as they make a profit of ₹100-120 on each bottle,” said the officer, blaming price difference in liquor.
A committee of northern Indian states has been constituted to streamline taxes levied by the excise department on different commodities. “But it’s a lengthy process to reach a conclusion. The committee will take time,” the official said. Liquor is other states in cheaper as compared to Punjab, which is the main reason behind spurt for smuggling.
Excise officials say the bootleggers buy directly from the distilleries, bypassing the taxation system and thus making huge profits.
“Despite seizures and registration of criminal cases against the bootleggers, I think, much remains to be done,” said additional excise and taxation commissioner, Punjab, Gurtej Singh.
On the proposed action against the distillery owners, he said the department could resort to cancellation of licences of the distilleries and confiscate their licence fee.