Friday, February 03, 2017

Village panchayats vote for `prohibition', parties silent

Times of India‎‎‎: Chandigarh: Friday, February 03, 2017.
The report is based on the information supplied by various public authorities under the provision of the RTI Act 2005.
Leave aside Bihar-like prohibition, even curbs on liquor sale is a tricky issue for political parties as the excise duty continues to be the key money spinner for the state. No wonder, even as 232 village panchayats passed resolutions in 2015-16 demanding liquor sales ban in their area; most political parties have been non-committal on the issue in their campaigns for the state assembly elections.
Meanwhile, the number of liquor vends has registered a 48.29% increase in the past nine years bringing it to 9,842, against a growth of 5.5% in Haryana in the same time period. Ironically, despite increasing number of liquor vends, Punjab has not been able to achieve expected revenue as compared to adjoining states. Apparently, the Congress is the only party to have promised in its election manifesto to bring down the number of vends by 5% each year.
A "white paper" on liquor prepared by "People for Transparency" points out that the constitution of both the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) demands that its members abstains from consuming alcohol but the parties have still not reflected the sentiments seeking curbs on liquor in their policies.
Kamal Anand, general secretary of the group told TOI, "If not prohibition, the political parties should at least try to regulate the supply of liquor in the state. However, the trends reflect mindless increase in the number of vends and quota per vend over the past years. It is not a desirable trend."
The number of resolutions passed by panchayats against liquor too has gone up from 41 in 2010-11 to 232 last year. Before that, this practice was not witnessed in the state. Of the 232, 209 resolutions were accepted by the excise and taxation department. "Women folk in particular are against such easy availability of liquor," said Anand.
As per law, a panchayat is authorized to pass a resolution supported by at least two-thirds of panches holding office directing that no liquor be sold at any licensed shop within the gram sabha area, notwithstanding any resolution passed by an empowered local body under section 5 of the Punjab Local Option Act, 1923.
The number of liquor vends in Punjab too has gone up from 6,637 in 2008-09 to 9,842 in 2016-17. "It is very shocking to see that Punjab has one liquor shop for every 1,940 Voters. Punjab being conservative society and women in state normally does not drink. If we take out women for per capita liquor vend data analysis, Punjab has one liquor vend catering to 1,025 male above age of 18 year," said Anand.
At the same time, the revenue collection of Punjab under excise head in compare to neighbouring areas paints a dismissal picture. Punjab has scored 167% revenue increase in last 9 years, Chandigarh shown 167% increase and Haryana has scored 165% despite not increasing the number of vends drastically.
Punjab Congress has, meanwhile, said that its objective was that liquor vends should be only at district headquarters so that the practice of drinking is controlled in the state.