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Delhi govt to resume selling liquor after controversies around private licenses, to open 700 vends including 5 premium stores

The liquor outlets will be operated by four govt undertakings, Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC), Delhi State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), Delhi Consumer's Cooperative Wholesale Stores (DCCWS) and Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation (DSCSC).

Days after Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia announced the decision to scrap the new liquor policy, the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, the Delhi government has announced that it will open 700 liquor outlets in Delhi. Out of the 700 outlets, five will be premium liquor shops that will be set up in posh districts, malls, and large markets.

The liquor outlets will be operated by four govt undertakings, Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC), Delhi State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), Delhi Consumer’s Cooperative Wholesale Stores (DCCWS) and Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation (DSCSC). The objective of the government behind this is to maximize sales to minimize black marketing and smuggling from neighbouring states.

This development comes amidst the recently launched probe into the Delhi government’s excise department by the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW), due to alleged irregularities in its new liquor policy. The government withdrew its 2021-22 excise policy last week after a continuing disagreement with the LG, who has urged the CBI to investigate claims of corruption in the scheme’s execution, and has chosen to reinstate the previous policy beginning September 1. In the meanwhile, private vending licenses have been extended until August 31.

The government plans to establish two premium outlets by August 31 and three more by the end of the year. Out of the 700 general outlets, 500 will be opened by September, and the rest 200 will be opened by December. The four organisations will operate the stores in different zones. DTTDC will run the shops in zones 1-9, DSIIDC in 10-18, DCCWS in 19-24, and DSCSC in 25-30. DTTDC and DSIIDC will open 150 liquor vends each by month end, while DCCWS and DSCSC will open 100 stores each in the same period. After that, DTTDC and DSIIDC will each open 60 additional outlets by December, and DCCWS and DSCSC will open 40 outlets each. The four corporations maintained 475 liquor vends under the former excise regime, which was in operation until November 17 of last year.

The present excise policy, which expires on August 31, private enterprises retail permits for 32 zones and 849 vends. The government, which had exited the retail liquor market following the implementation of Excise Policy 2021-22 on November 17, will reopen alcohol vends on September 1.

One of the officials stated that under the old policy, imported liquor brands were only sold by the private outlets while the government vends dealt with country-made liquor. “Now, as the government has decided to shut these (private) vends, there is a plan to open premium vends so people can walk in and buy without rush,” he was quoted.

Delhi Deputy CM blames ex LG Anil Baijal

Meanwhile, Delhi Dy CM Manish Sisodia held a press conference on August 6 to seek CBI investigation and blame Delhi’s Ex Lt Governor Anil Baijal for corruption in the new excise policy which has now been rolled back. “Due to change of decision in LG office, some shopkeepers got profit of thousands of crores and government lost thousands of crores,” he said adding that the new Excise Policy of Delhi 2021-22 benefited some individuals but was not effectively executed.

Anil Baijal was the Delhi LG when the Arvind Kejriwal administration developed the new excise policy, which came into effect on November 17, 2021. Sisodia stated that in the new excise policy, which was enacted in May 2021, it was determined that there would be an equal number of liquor stores in each location. “Previously”, he added, “there were up to 20 stores in one location and none in others”.

“Earlier, 849 shops in the national capital were unevenly distributed. In the new policy, equitable distribution was underlined to avoid instances like hooch policy”, the Dy CM said adding that the new excise policy was carefully read and approved by the then LG. However, the state government lost thousands of crores of rupees as a result of the decision being reversed 48 hours before the stores were to open.

According to him, 300 to 350 stores were unable to launch because the former LG altered his stance. Sisodia demanded a CBI investigation over the decision modification and questioned whether the LG was pressured. “It should also be investigated whether the former LG decided under duress and whether any Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was involved,” he accused.

‘AAP manufactures lie’

Responding to the allegations made by the Delhi Dy CM, BJP’s Sambit Patra said that the Aam Aadmi Party was manufacturing a lie and was deliberately dragging former LG into the matter. “If at all there was a scam, then why was the government silent from November 2021 to August 2022? Now they are suddenly making up the scam to divert the public attention. Already CBI, EOW, and ED are behind them. They just are looking to divert the attention”, he said.

He further said, “Sisodia allowed manufacturing vendors to run private liquor shops, which is illegal. He also allowed the black-listed companies to sell liquor which is also illegal. He also allowed the cartels to dominate the tenders. Later the AAP and Sisodia were issued show cause notice by the Excise departments”. Patra also demanded Sisodia to make public the answer written in response to the notice if any.

Delhi’s liquor policy

The policy was proposed in 2020 and came into force in November 2021. Delhi was divided into 32 zones, each with 27 liquor vends. It also marked the end of the government’s sale of alcohol, only private liquor shops now function in the city, with 2-3 vends in each mayoral ward. The objectives of the policy were to put a stop to the liquor mafia and black marketing, raise income and improve the customer experience, and ensure equal distribution of liquor vends.

The government also made laws more flexible for licensees, such as enabling them to provide discounts and establish their own pricing rather than selling at the government-mandated MRP. Following it, vendors gave discounts, attracting people. Following opposition rallies, the tax agency temporarily suspended discounts. Reports mention that the excise policy 2021-22 helped the government to earn increased revenue, generating around Rs 8900 crore.

Sisodia reportedly changed the excise policy without the LG’s consent, such as providing a remission of Rs. 144.36 crores on the surrendered licencing fee due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Delhi Police’s EOW’s action in the case

The EOW of the Delhi Police meanwhile has sent a notice to the assistant commissioner of the Delhi Excise Department, requesting information concerning the suspected illicit distribution of liquor licences to organisations that breached the terms and conditions of the New Excise Policy 2021-22. It has demanded papers and information from the excise department regarding when the New Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 was formed and when tenders for the award of liquor licences under the new policy were announced.

The EOW has also requested the department to disclose the application forms for all successful applicants who acquired a liquor licence, as well as any other relevant papers that they were required to provide.

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