Assam government losing consumers for hiking liquor taxes, pleads for awareness about 'better quality'
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 18: Despite a sharp hike in taxes, liquor sales in Assam, particularly in Kamrup metropolitan district where there is the highest concentration of wine shops, bars and other liquor outlets, the generation of revenue has not been commensurate. If the consumption of liquor is not going down in Assam, then where is the revenue going?
Blame it on the proximity the consumers in Kamrup district enjoy with Meghalaya, a State where liquor is available at much cheaper rates.
The assam government raised taxes by 30 to 40 per cent on most liquor brands in June last.
However, there has been only a margil increase in the revenue earned. In the month of June last year, the revenue collection in Kamrup district was 11.42 crore. This year in June, it increased to just 13.06 crore. The increase in revenue should have been much more in keeping with the tax hike.
Sources in the Excise department have revealed that laxity on the part of some revenue and enforcement inspectors has led to the revenue leakage. "There are some inspectors who have been posted in the district since 15-20 years. turally, there is a possibility of them having a nexus with unscrupulous elements," the sources said.
The raids conducted by Excise Intelligence Bureau are also not regular.
On the Meghalaya side at Khapara, the prices of liquor are 30 to 35 per cent less than that of Assam. It is because of this price differential that a large number of consumers from Guwahati and neighbouring places tend to buy liquor from Khapara.
"A bottle of beer which costs Rs 120 in Guwahati is sold at Rs 75 at Khapara. Similarly high-end liquor brands cost Rs 200-300 less in Meghalaya. The three highest selling brands which cost Rs 305 (per 750 ml bottle) comes for around Rs 200 in Meghalaya," said officials in the Excise department.
The officials said that it is not possible to check each and every vehicle and prevent people from buying liquor at Khapara.
Excise Commissioner Shamsher Singh, however, emphasized the need for greater awareness among liquor consumers. "The consumers should understand why the rates are lower in Khapara. Is there a compromise in quality…especially during bottling? The quality of cheaper things is always questioble. People should realize this. It should not be that to save a little money on liquor, one ends up paying more for medical bills," he said.