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New Haryana excise policy fails to block syndicate
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
The Haryana Government’s new excise policy brought higher revenue at the auctions held today, but it failed to check the re-entry of the syndicate which had been controlling the liquor trade in the state for the past two years.

The policy had prohibited the grouping of vends of more than one district to increase competition as well as to provide a level field to small liquor contractors of Haryana. The syndicate includes players mostly from Uttar Pradesh or Delhi.

The policy succeeded in getting higher revenue for the state. The vends in the four districts of Ambala, Panchkula, Yamunanagar and Kaithal were auctioned for a price which is 11.73 per cent higher than that of last year. The vends in these districts were auctioned for Rs 144.55 crore against Rs 129.36 crore last year.

An official spokesman said here that the increase in the auction price in the four districts was much higher than the overall increase in the state during the past five years. In 2000-01, the overall increase in the excise revenue was 1.99 per cent, 1.65 per cent in 2001-02, 5.43 per cent in 2002-03, 4.87 per cent in 2003-04 and 3.02 per cent in 2004-05. At that time the authorities used to say that it was not possible to increase the revenue more than this because the liquor trade had reached saturation point.

According to trade sources, the vends in all four districts have been purchased by the syndicate.

The sources said the revenue could be further increased if the auction officer had “not discriminated” against local contractors in the case of Yamunanagar and Panchkula.

For Yamunanagar district, two companies, Ashok Wadia and Company and Mittal and Company, were vying with each other. The sources say when the Ashok Wadia group made a bid for Rs 42.68 crore, the auction officer applied the “one-third” rule. Under this rule anyone bidding more than the amount at which the rule is applied, has to deposit 33 per cent of the auction money at the fall of the hammer. Mr Sadanand Chauhan of Mittal and Company told TNS on the phone that his last bid was for Rs 42.67 crore. His rival, he said, increased the bid amount only by Rs 1 lakh when the rule was applied. The person on whose bid the rule is applied has to deposit only 5 per cent of the auction money at the fall of the hammer. If the auction officer had to apply this rule, he should have applied it on his bid, Mr Chauhan said. He said his company was still willing to take the Yamunanagar vends for Rs 45 crore if it was allowed to deposit 5 per cent of the auction money.

He alleged that by applying the one-third rule on Mr Wadia’s bid, the auction officer had clearly favoured the syndicate, denying the local contractors, who were thrown out of employment during the Chautala regime, an opportunity to re-enter the trade.

Similarly, when the Panchkula vends were put to auction, the rule was allegedly again applied in favour of the syndicate, when it raised to bid to Rs 22.34 crore.

A local contractor said that while there were no instructions from the political leadership to the officers to favour the syndicate, the officers, for reasons best known to them, did not want the local contractors to enter the trade.

The local contractors raised slogans against the authorities for a few minutes at today’s auction.

The Yamunanagar vends were auctioned to Ashok Wadia and Company for Rs 42.68 crore against the reserve price of Rs 41.63 crore. Last year these were auctioned for Rs 35.46 crore. The Ambala vends were auctioned to P.S. and Company for Rs 41.75 crore against the reserve price of Rs 40.71 crore. Last year’s price was Rs 39.27 crore. The Panchkula vends fetched Rs 22.34 crore from Messrs Ganpati Associates against the reserve price of Rs 19.02 crore. Last year Panchkula district had fetched Rs 18.18 crore. Kaithal went to Messers Mittal & Company (a company different from that which participated in the auction for the Yamunanagar vends) for Rs 38.29 crore against the reserve price of Rs 36.60 crore. Last year the vends in the district were auctioned for Rs 36.45 crore.

The sources say at least two persons who played a leading role at the auction of vends in Punjab are members of the Haryana syndicate also.

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