M A I N   N E W S

Liquor to be cheaper in Punjab
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
After putting up with the skyrocketing price of liquor in the past couple of years, consumers in Punjab will now get their liquor and beer at a price which is 25 to 30 per cent lower than the prevailing price. All major brands which had been wiped out of the market due to the monopoly of certain liquor traders will also be available.

The Punjab Council of Ministers, at a meeting here this evening, gave its nod to do away with the existing system of auctioning of liquor vends for the year 2006-07. From April 1, the vends will be allotted by inviting applications and a pre-decided licence fee will be charged from the allottee. The fee will vary according to the city or village and the population of the area will be taken into account.

This move of the government will break the monopoly of a cartel led by a liquor baron, Mr Ponty Chadha, and his group. Under the new excise policy the quota of liquor allocation to each allottee of a vend has been increased. From the existing 660 lakh proof litres it will be increased to 900 lakh proof litres. This will bring down the fee liability of the allottee from Rs 191 per proof litre to Rs 142 per proof litre.

The Council of Ministers also reduced the duty on Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) from Rs 39 per proof litre to Rs 25 per proof litre. Value added tax (VAT) on liquor has been reduced from 22 per cent to 4 per cent. The import fee on beer has been brought down from Rs 52 for each 12-bottle pack to just Rs 7.50 per pack.

Excise duty on the sale of liquor by the CSD had been reduced from Rs 39 per litre to Rs 25 per litre, giving ex-servicemen and serving defence personnel an overall exemption of Rs 15 crore.

To tackle the problem of under-pricing of liquor and undercutting among liquor traders, the government has fixed a minimum price for each category. For light beer it is Rs 40 and Rs 45 for strong beer. For country liquor this will Rs 85 per bottle. Similarly, the minimum price for liquor of the economy, medium, premium and de luxe categories has been fixed at Rs 130, Rs 150, Rs 180 and Rs 290, respectively. At present, the price of these types of liquor is anywhere between Rs 200 for the economy variety and Rs 500-600 for the de luxe brands.

The new price is expected to be just Rs 20-30 more than the minimum price for popular brands.

In the current year the revenue from excise is expected to be Rs 1,500 crore. Next year it is projected to be Rs 1,628 crore.

Each vend will be allotted individually. The application forms will be available on the payment of Rs 2,000 in the offices of the Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioners. Details of the policy will be available at www.pextax.com.

A person can apply for any number of vends. If more than one application is received for a vend, the allotment will be made by draw of lots.

The number of outlets will also be increased substantially from the existing 4,312 country vends and 1,345 IMFL vends. These will collectively go up to about 7,000.

The licence fee will be as follows: Municipal Corporation area of Ludhiana Rs 60 lakh; Municipal Corporation (including Cantonment Board) area of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda Rs 50 lakh; municipal committee area, notified area and nagar panchayats Rs 45 lakh; and rural areas (decided on the basis of population and location) Rs 30 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.

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