NEW DELHI: The Delhi government has decided to withdraw the new Excise Policy for the time being and directed the sale of liquor only through government-run vends, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Saturday.
The 468 private liquor shops operating in the city will be shut from August 1 as the term of their licences and that of the new excise policy expires on July 31.
Targeting the BJP, he alleged they were "running an illegal liquor business in Gujarat" and they wanted to do it in Delhi also.
The deputy chief minister, who also holds the excise portfolio, said in a press briefing that the Delhi chief secretary has been directed to ensure that liquor is now sold through government shops only and there is no chaos.
He also alleged the BJP was using agencies like the CBI and ED to threaten liquor licensees, many of whom have now shut shops, and the excise officials who were scared to start open auctions of retail licences.
"They want to create a shortage of liquor so that they can run an illegal liquor trade in Delhi like they are doing in Gujarat. But we will not let this happen," Sisodia said.
He claimed that if the legal sale of liquor is stopped in Delhi then it may witness a "hooch tragedy" on lines of Gujarat.
Forty-two people from Botad and the neighbouring Ahmedabad district in Gujarat died after consuming spurious liquor on July 25, while 97 people are admitted to hospitals in Bhavnagar, Botad and Ahmedabad.
Under the Delhi government's new excise policy, nearly 468 liquor stores are running in Delhi at present.
The policy, that extended twice after April 30 for a two-month period each, will end on July 31.
Addressing reporters at his residence, Sisodia said in the old excise policy there were many government liquor vends and there used to be "huge corruption" in such stores.
But that was stopped with the new excise policy, the deputy chief minister said.
In the new excise policy, licences were issued through open tenders in a transparent manner, he said.
"Under the old regime, the government used to earn a revenue of Rs 6,000 crore, while through the new excise policy the government was set to get Rs 9,500 crore revenue in the entire year," Sisodia said.
Accusing the BJP of threatening licensees and excise officials through CBI and ED, Sisodia claimed out of 850 liquor shops, only 468 could open as many were shut by shop owners following "threats from the BJP".
More shop owners wanted to shut shops following such threats, he alleged.
"They (BJP) want to reduce the sale of legal quantities of liquor.
Like Gujarat, they want to promote the sale of spurious, off-duty liquor by threatening Delhi's shop-owners, officers," Sisodia said.
Comparing the number of shops in BJP-ruled states with Delhi, Sisodia said in Haryana's Gurugram one liquor shop is opened per 466 people while in Goa the ratio is 761 people and in Noida, one liquor shop is opened per 1,390 people.
At present, Delhi has one liquor shop for 22,707 people, Sisodia said.
It was the New Indian Express which reported first about the development.
The old liquor policy is likely to be back in force from August 1, 2022, sources said.
This newspaper was the first to report that the city government’s liquor policy “extended wrongful gains and favours to liquor wholesalers in Delhi… at the cost of state’s revenue.”
In a letter marked “Topmost Priority” to the state’s excise commissioner Krishna Mohan Uppu, Delhi finance secretary Ashish Chandra Verma on Friday said: “Reference is invited to the directions of Hon’ble Dy CM dated 28.07.2022 vide which it has, inter alia, been directed to revert to old regime of excise policy for a period of 6 months till a fresh Excise Policy is in place.” The letter further said,
“Considering that the timelines are very short, you, while taking other necessary actions in the matter, may coordinate immediately with the heads of the DSIIDC, DTTDC, DCCWS, DSCSC (all PSUs) to get the following information prepared latest by end of today (i.e., 29.09.2022) in the following format separately for all such four organizations.”
The information sought from the excise commissioner includes the name of old vend and its location, staff deployed in the previous regime, whether the premises where the vend was located were rented or owned by the public sector undertaking, and whether the premises were still vacant or occupied.
Copies of the finance minister’s letter have also been sent to the heads of the four PSUs, which were earlier engaged in running the liquor vends.
The Delhi government implemented a new excise policy on November 15, 2021, that withdrew the four PSUs from the liquor business and handed over the entire trade over to the private sector. Friday’s order rolled it back and directed the excise commissioner to bring back the PSUs into the liquor trade.
Sources said the new policy was scrapped to stonewall the probe and prevent action against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who was the head of the group of ministers that drafted it.
The new excise policy had generated protests from retailers, with 10 zonal retailers out of the total 32 zones surrendering or refusing to renew licenses accusing the government of favouring wholesalers.
(With ENS and PTI Inputs)