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Dispur set to promote local brews, boost coffers

BY OUR STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, Feb 22: At a time when the Supreme Court on December last ordered closure of all liquor shops along tiol and state highways across the country and directed governments to “cease and desist” from issuing excise licenses, the Assam government has decided to promote manufacturing and retailing of country-made liquor in the State in order to earn more excise revenue.

Towards this end, the State Excise department has issued a notification and fixed rates on issuing licenses for manufacturing and retailing country-made liquor.

In its December order, the apex court had said no new liquor shops shall come up along the highways while those already having licenses will have to shut shop by April 1, 2017. It also ordered removal of boards indicating their location and held that no such vend can be allowed within 500-metre range of a highway.

It may be mentioned that country-made liquor is quite popular in Upper Assam and there are also some units manufacturing the product. But the State has still no laws under which country-made liquor can be retailed. To plug this loophole and monitor the entire trade, the State government has decided to bring retailing of the commodity under the ambit of law.

Henceforth, licenses will be issued for manufacturing country-made liquor with payment of Rs 1 lakh, for wholesale with payment of Rs 30,000 and for retail sale with payment of Rs 10,000.

The State government has also decided to go for bottling of country-made liquor like foreign varieties, and will ask manufacturers to follow all standard and scientific procedures in making the product.

The Government of Assam believes that it will be able to earn more excise revenue by regulating the manufacturing and retailing of country-made liquor.

Sources said in the current fincial year, the State government has fixed a target of collecting excise revenue to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore, but the recent order of the Supreme Court, it seems, has dealt a blow to meeting this target. So, Dispur has decided to find an altertive to keep its flow of excise revenue intact.

As per official records, collection of excise revenue in Assam from 2011-12 has been maintaining a rising trend. The collection of excise revenue was Rs 503.22 crore in 2011-12, Rs 567.9 crore in 2012-13, Rs 616.90 crore in 2013-14, Rs 665.82 crore in 2014-15, Rs 799.52 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 657.48 crore up to December 2016-17.