Bad times: old liquor policy, new problems for Delhi government

On Saturday, Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio, had said: “We have decided to terminate the new policy and gave instructions for the opening of government stores…I have ordered the chief secretary to ensure that there is no corruption in government stores. and no illegal alcohol sold in Delhi… I gave instructions so that there is no chaos during the transition period.

Although the government is not extending the new policy, sources in the lieutenant governor’s office said it has sent a brief to LG offering to extend existing licenses by one month to August 31 for the transition. take effect. This is awaiting approval from LG, sources said. Meanwhile, a government notification issued late Sunday evening indicates that the country’s liquor store licenses (L-3/L-33 license) will be extended for two months (August 1 to September 30), on a prorated basis.

Meanwhile, the Finance Department has written to the Excise Department and the heads of four departments – DSIIDC, DTTDC, DCCWS and DSCSC – which operated government liquor stores, to immediately provide details of former vendors, their locations. and the staff that was employed. the. Asked about it, a senior DSIIDC official said, “We also heard about it but received no communication so far.”

Under the old policy, there were 475 government-run stores and 389 private stores.

A government official said: ‘These government stores have either been closed or the space has been taken up by private hire sales. Now the government must determine how many are open or rented. More importantly, a proposal must be prepared and adopted by Cabinet. From now on, a file has been transferred to the Secretary General and he will forward it to the Deputy CM. The Deputy CM will then table it to the Cabinet for approval and forward it to the LG for final implementation.

In limbo

Private alcohol vendors and their employees, on the other hand, are watch a loss in business and jobs. There are currently 468 active vendors in the city, employing a multitude of people – vendors, managers, developers, sanitation staff, security guards, among others. Many are considering surrendering their license even if there is an extension, which will see the number of sales drop to 360-400. Most don’t know what the future holds.

A salesman employed at a liquor store in Lodhi Colony said, “I have a family of four and I am the sole breadwinner. We have no idea what’s going on – the news says the government has ordered private shops closed while I’ve heard people say the license could be renewed for another month. But my employers said our stores would close because the owner doesn’t want to renew the license. »

He added: “What is our future under the old policy? No one knows or cares what happened to workers/employees who were previously employed in government liquor stores.

A man employed at a liquor store in Defense Colony said: ‘I got married recently and left Odisha for Delhi. I don’t know what I will do if I lose my job.

A liquor store manager in Lajpat Nagar added, “When the government-run store closed last year, many employees joined private vendors…but a large number are still unemployed. In private liquor stores, staff members are paid 30,000 rupees per month and a manager between 45,000 and 50,000 rupees. In government stores, the salary is Rs 20,000…”

To clear inventory over the weekend, several liquor stores offered discounts of up to 25% and offers such as “buy one, get one free”, “buy two, get one free”. -in three free” on high-end brands.

Even if the licenses are extended, there could be a liquor shortage as several stores are full. “We’ve sold out almost all of our stock, we’re down to premium liquor that should be sold out in a day,” the manager of a liquor store at Defense Colony said.

A liquor dealer added: ‘It will take at least a week for the paperwork as almost all licenses will expire on Sunday’.

Another dealer highlighted the cost involved in the whole process: “To acquire a license, each zonal sale had invested around Rs 255 crore… An additional Rs 20 crore to Rs 25 crore was spent on other things such as the creation of stores. We also have to pay excise duty and VAT… Given the expense, small businesses are unlikely to fail to renew their licenses.

Meanwhile, several stores saw people queuing to take advantage of discounts. “I heard that the stores were closing for two months. So I thought of stocking up as my sister is getting married next month…and there are good offers today,” said Arvind Sharma, a resident of Jangpura, who was waiting outside an outlet in Govindpuri.

Others left empty-handed. “We were looking for scotch and beer, but it’s not available here. We went to at least four stores in South and South East Delhi…” said IT professionals Gaurav and Aniket.

Some customers said the government should allow at least some private sales to operate, as the government-owned ones don’t have premium liquor. An alcohol promoter added: “People will go to Gurgaon now because it’s cheaper…shops are also open till late there.”

Behind the backtrack

Introduced last November, the new excise policy has made sweeping changes to the nature and operation of the liquor business in the city. The government completely left the customer side of the business, shutting down all government-run alcohol sales, and the sale of alcohol was handed over exclusively to private actors. Licenses were issued through an open auction. It was decided to open 849 stores divided into 32 zones, each zone having 27 liquor outlets.

The policy soon ran into stiff opposition. While the AAP government claimed it would end the alcohol mafia, the BJP accused it of allowing liquor stores near schools and places of worship.

As a result, of the total allocated sales, only around 630-650 stores were able to open. Several dealers have faced difficulties in obtaining permission to open stores in non-compliant areas due to protests from MCD, opposition parties and the public.

Things came to a head earlier this month when the LG has requested a CBI investigation into the new policy following a report submitted by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar on the matter. The report, which officials say was submitted on July 8, accuses Sisodia of providing improper benefits to liquor sales license holders instead of “bribes” and “commissions” and l money used in recent elections in Punjab.

The The Economic Crimes Wing of the Delhi Police has also launched an investigation following a complaint alleging illegal distribution of zonal liquor licenses to manufacturing companies and blacklisted companies in violation of the terms and conditions of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

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