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Punjab considers cut in liquor rates to check smuggling



CHANDIGARH: Punjab is considering slashing liquor prices in the state to check smuggling from the neighbouring states where it is cheaper. The move is expected to bring the prices down by one-third.State finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, on Thursday , said the reduction in liquor prices is aimed at generating an income of around Rs 2,000 crore for the state government.

“Liquor prices in Punjab are very high,” said Badal. Citing a comparitive study of liquor rates by the excise and taxation department across the country , he said, “The department found that the population of Tamil Nadu is three times that of Punjab, but Tamil Nadu’s excise collection is 10 times more as compared to it.” Excise and taxation department officials are of the view that the state government is suffering losses due to the nexus between the liquor companies and contractors. The finance minister said the liquor business is one of the areas from where the cash strapped Punjab government could generate revenue. He added that the state government is also looking to increase revenue from the lotteries department from where it earns around Rs 20-30 crore per year.

Soon after coming to power, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state had hiked the liquor prices in the excise policy for the 2017-18 fiscal. As compared to the 2016-17 fiscal, the price of a bottle of countrymade liquor went up by Rs 10-15 from April 1. However, a bottle of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) got costlier by Rs 30-40. The state government also brought down the number of liquor vends from 6,384 to around 5,900.

The Congress government, in its excise policy, had also reduced the quota of country liquor by 14% as compared to last fiscal year, from 10.10 crore proof litres to 8.70 crore proof litres.

At the same time, the quota of IMFL was reduced by 20% from 4.73 crore proof litres to 3.80 crore proof litres.

In the excise policy for 2017-18 fiscal, the state government had also abolished the system of wholesale licence L-1 A and L-1 licensees were permitted to directly lift their liquor quota from the distilleries and manufacturing companies.

Criticising the central government decision of paying state’s share of goods and services tax (GST) quarterly, the state finance minister said that they would take up this issue in the next GST council meeting.

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