As boot­leg­gers make hay, ex­cise dept to crack down on dis­tillery own­ers

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Punjab & Haryana - Gur­preet Singh Nib­ber gur­preet.nib­ber@htlive.com ■

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.

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