Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 22
The Excise and Taxation Department today conducted stock-checking in all 15 Punjab distilleries, a day after a raid on the premises of a Rajpura distillery which, it is believed, also supplied liquor to a smuggler in Kharkhoda, Haryana, amidst the lockdown.
It may be mentioned that The Tribune has carried a series of reports on the liquor scam in the state. Sources in the department said searches were conducted in Mohali, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Bathinda, Mansa and Kapurthala distilleries. This was also confimed by Principal Secretary (Excise and Taxation) A Venu Prasad. Excise Taxation Officers and Inspectors posted in these distilleries were being transferred, the sources said.
The department suspects that many of these distilleries, under the garb of making sanitisers, manufactured liquor and sold it illegally. These distilleries may have supplied extra neutral alcohol (ENL) to illegal distilleries that have flourished across Punjab during the lockdown.
The distilleries were allowed to manufacture alcohol earlier this month. Misusing labels and passes allowing sale to states such as Arunachal Pradesh, these distilleries are believed to have sold liquor illegally within Punjab, thus evading taxes. The Excise Department is yet to give the nod to liquor sale to Arunachal. Importantly, the average growth in excise revenues in the past three years has been just 2.86 per cent.
A meeting of liquor contractors with two members of the Group of Ministers —Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Vijay Inder Singla — was held last evening where liquor contractors are learnt to have raised the issue of smuggling and illicit sales.
They particularly mentioned a distillery in Majha region impacting sales at vends in Ferozepur, Fazilka and Abohar.
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