VISAKHAPATNAM: The excise officials are caught between the devil and the deep sea. While the top authorities of the excise department want the revenue target for the next 40 days to cross Rs 2,270 crore to reduce the revenue deficit for this fiscal, the police authorities are not permitting the wine shops and bars to remain open beyond the prescribed hours in the aftermath of the hooch tragedy that killed four persons at a bar in Vijayawada.
With strict policing and government’s higher targets, the excise officials face trouble to increase the sale of liquor in the state. During the past six months and after the Vijayawada incident, the entire Police department is strictly enforcing closure of the wine shops and bars as per the schedule.
Though the bar and restaurants have time till 11 pm, the police in various cities are enforcing closure of the bars by 10.30 pm.
Meanwhile, the excise department has a fixed target in the state to achieve Rs 12,500 crore revenue. The department had already earned Rs 10,230 crore and in the next 40 days (March 31), the department has fixed a record target of Rs 2,270 crore worth liquor sale across the state.
Excise commissioner Mukhesh Kumar Meena, while addressing a state-level excise officers meeting in Visakhapatnam directed the officials to chase the target. After the meeting the excise officials held a long discussion on the huge target and informed their bosses on the highhandedness of the police on the wine shops and bars. Almost all the excise officials of the 13 districts lodged similar complaints.
Though the issue was discussed in the state-level excise officials meeting, there is no response from the top bosses. “There are several problems to increase the sales. Already, we are selling 50 per cent more liquor to the shops against their indent. The shopkeepers lament about the troubles that they face from the police. How can we achieve bigger new targets. Normally, in February and March the sale of liquor will come down as there are no major festivals. The wine shop owners are refusing to take extra liquor scared of police action,” one excise superintendent lamented.
The shopkeepers also expressed their deep dissent. They say that no wine shop can function by following the guidelines of the police and excise strictly.
“The maintenance cost of the bars and wine shops has shot up because of the licence fee, rent of the buildings, power charges, bribe amounts, interest on the investment and sops to the boozers like free drinking water, glasses and some eatables. Boys are also not coming for small salaries now. How can we run the business? Normally, the sale of liquor is more between 10 and 12 in the night. However, the police patrolling starts right from 9.30 pm. We are asking the boozers to leave the shops to close the shutters. We need Rs 5 lakh worth of liquor per week. The indent depends on the sales. However, the excise officials add 25 to 35 per cent liquor on every indent,” a senior manager of a bar lamented. The excise officials want to achieve their targets without looking into our problems, he added.
“As a part of our law and order duty, we are asking the shops to close down as per schedule. We are not allowing even the tiffin vendors after 10.30 pm. True, the bars have time till 11 pm. However, we are asking the bar owners to shutdown strictly by 11 pm. If the police wish to close the bars by 11 pm, the bars should not allow the boozers after 10.30 pm. Let shopkeepers seek permission from the government for 24/7 sale of liquor. That will reduce our responsibility,” a city assistant commissioner of police said.