Punjab on a ‘high’, to guzzle over 350 mn liquor bottles

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Old 28-Feb-2011
Punjab on a ‘high’, to guzzle over 350 mn liquor bottles

Chandigarh February 28:

This is one ‘high’ that is going to hit Punjab hard but will leave the state government cash rich. The Punjab government has announced a 10 percent hike in quota of liquor for the next year that is slated to leave the exchequer richer by Rs 728 crore.

The state government is eyeing staggering revenue of over Rs 3190 crore in 2011-12 from excise duty. The government has allowed over 35 crore bottles of liquor and beer for the state in the next financial year. With the state’s population estimated to be around 3 crore (2.43 crore in Census 2001), the per capital consumption of liquor would be nearly 12 bottles.

Given that the state has a voting population of around 1.3 crore and those above 18 years of age can legally buy liquor, the per capita consumption for the entire adult population would be about 27 bottles annually. “If we count all women, majority of whom would be non-drinkers and they constitute nearly 45 percent of adult population, the number of bottles per capita would double. The worst thing is that the government is encouraging liquor consumption to generate higher revenue for itself,” Navdeep Singh, a medical practitioner in Jalandhar told reporters.

By the time the current financial year draws to an end, liquor drinkers would have gulped down nearly 32 crore bottles. The Excise and Taxation Department officials said that 1.53 crore cases of country liquor, 53 lakh cases of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and 70 lakh cases of beer have been sold this year. Each case contains 12 bottles each (750 ml to 1 litre). “With assembly elections scheduled to be held in Punjab in February-March next year, liquor sales are likely to surge phenomenally in the run-up to the polls as liquor plays a very important part in campaign of all major political parties,” lawyer Varinder Sharma of Patiala said.

The additional revenue generation of Rs 728 crore is 30 percent higher than additional revenue of Rs 500 crore expected for the current year (2010-11), which was described as a ‘historic increase’ by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and much of additional revenue will come at a cost for liquor guzzlers. The state government has hiked retail price of liquor bottles by Rs 10 to Rs 20, depending on the brand. Despite the cost of beer being increased from Rs 45 presently to Rs 55, the industry is expecting a surge in sales.

“There was a growth of around 30 percent in beer sales this year. Next year (2011-12), this will be even higher,” leading beer manufacturer Rajiv Bali told reporters. Information gathered by a Chandigarh NGO through the Right to Information (RTI) Act last year had revealed that Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh alone had consumed nearly 75 crore bottles of liquor in 2008-09. The total adult population of these states, as per the 2001 census, is only about Rs 4.5 crore.

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