RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh assembly today passed a bill that empowers the state to create a corporation to facilitate sale of both foreign and Indian liquor through government outlets.
The Chhattisgarh Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was cleared by the assembly after division of votes. After a discussion on the bill, opposition Congress demanded a vote division. The legislation garnered 49 votes in its favour and 33 against.
Replying to the debate, Commercial Tax Minister Amar Agrawal said the government has taken this step to prevent illegal sale of liquor and safeguard receipt of revenue.
The Supreme Court on December 15, 2016 banned issue of licence for sale of liquor on national and state highways. As many as 416 liquor shops in the state will be affected by this ruling. Revenue generation from these shops stood at about 2,200 crore, he said.
There is a need to put an effective check on illegal sale of liquor and safeguard revenue. Hence, the government has decided to form a separate public sector company which will be undertaking retail sale of liquor in order to protect revenue of the government, the minister said.
The government will not allow 2-3 persons to enjoy monopoly (over liquor market) and let the revenue go in their pockets, Agrawal said.
"The move will curb illegal sale of liquor by middlemen and agents. We have been taking action against middlemen engaged in illegal sale of liquor," he said.
"As many as 1,093 `kochiye' (middlemen) are in jail," the minister said. Meanwhile, he announced the government would close down liquor shops in villages that have a population of up to 3,000.
He said an 11-member committee has been constituted to visit and study states where total prohibition is in place and where liquor is sold under government supervision.
Speaking against the bill, Satyanarayan Sharma (Congress) accused the BJP government of adopting double standards on liquor.
On one hand the government has decided to sale liquor through its own outlets and on the other, it is supporting anti-liquor campaign being run by women groups, he said.