GUWAHATI: Liquor has literally brought cheers to depleting coffers of many States including Assam.
Nearly 50 per cent liquor vends in the country opened on Monday, after the Union Home Ministry (MHA) granted shops permission to reopen in green and orange zones, as well as those located outside COVID-19 hotspots or containment areas in red zones. At the heart of the matter is the revenue that alcohol brings to States, estimated at Rs 700 crore per day, or Rs 2.5 trillion annually.
Sources in the liquor industry said that the Centre had prohibited sale of alcohol after the nationwide lockdown was first announced on March 24, resulting in States losing close to Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenues in the last one and half month.
Soon after reopening of liquor shops on Monday, the Assam Government has earned revenue to the tune of Rs 25 crore till Tuesday. The total liquor sale was more than Rs 75 crore in the State. On other hand, the Excise department has moved the State Finance department to change the structure of liquor tax collection. The move is expected to generate additional revenue of Rs 500 crore to Assam.
Even though there has been criticism against giving priority to open liquor shops, the States have no other option but to count on excise revenue to enrich their coffers. The lockdown has devastated the agriculture, industry and many other sectors which used to generate significant revenues for states.
"Even though it sounds strange and ironical, it has become a reality that the liquor is only bringing hopes to the dwindling economy of Assam and many other States," an economics student said.