The Hush Post, Chandigarh
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday directed the Excise Department to explore the possibility of setting up a wholesale liquor corporation for the distribution of liquor, as a step towards ending monopolistic practices in the trade and earning revenue for the state exchequer. The decision was taken at the first meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Finance, set up to regularly review the cash-strapped state’s fiscal situation. The sub-committee is headed by the Chief Minister and has Brahm Mohindra, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Research and Medical Education, Parliamentary Affairs, and Manpreet Badal, Minister for Finance, as members. The sub-committee has been tasked with finding ways of curtailing expenditure and mobilizing resources.
Chairing the maiden meeting today, the Chief Minister asked the Excise Department to check on the feasibility of government intervention in the liquor trade, which is currently completely controlled by private players in the state. He asked the Department to work out the modalities for developing a corporation for wholesale distribution of liquor. The Department earlier made a presentation to the sub-committee explaining the existing value chain in the liquor trade and also highlighting the model followed by other states, including Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Rajasthan, according to the spokesperson.
A move to shift to a multi-year liquor policy from the prevailing one-year policy was also discussed by the sub-committee, which instructed the Excise Department to submit a detailed proposal. The chief minister also sought a proposal on restructuring of the Excise and Taxation departments to ensure more focussed administration of commercial taxes and excise with infusion of greater technology and specialization. The Chief Minister said it was important for various departments to come out with innovative ways to generate revenue for the state, which has inherited a debt burden of Rs 2,08,000 crore from the previous SAD-BJP government. The Excise Department has been asked to take steps to significantly raise its revenue generation targets over the next three years.
With a fiscal deficit of Rs 34,000 crore and revenue deficit of Rs 13,000 crore, the Congress government in the state is battling a major challenge as it strives to combat the fiscal crisis. Prominent amongst those present in the meeting included Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Chief Minister’s Media Advisor Raveen Thukral, Chairman of the Punjab Governance Reforms and Ethics Commission K R Lakhanpal, Advisor Financial Resources V K Garg, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary Excise and Taxation M P Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tewari and Excise and Taxation Commissioner Vivek Partap Singh.