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After Delhi, excise policy of Punjab’s AAP govt under judicial scanner

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 Aiming to boost revenue by reducing the price of alcohol and making the booze lovers kings, the new excise policy of the AAP government in Punjab which became operational from July 1, has come under the judicial scanner with those in the trade accusing the government of monopolising the liquor industry in favour of a “handful of entities”.

However, the government claims the policy is aimed at keeping a stringent check on the smuggling of liquor from neighbouring states and is expecting revenue generation of Rs 9,647.85 crore, a spike of about Rs 2,600 crore from the previous fiscal year.

The new policy, approved by the cabinet last month, is applicable for nine months till March 31, 2023.

The petition filed by Akash Enterprises and other wholesale and retail vendors challenged the policy in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the plea that it is an attempt to monopolise the liquor trade. It is pending before the court.

The petitioners pleaded that the government had issued a corrigendum whereby the maximum number of retail groups that can be allotted to an entity has been increased to five from three, which furthers the intent of monopolising the liquor industry into the hands of a few ‘resourceful’ bidders.

Contrary to the allegations, a spokesperson for the Chief Minister’s Office told IANS that the new excise policy aims to break the mafia nexus in the liquor trade.

Joining issue, rebel AAP leader and now Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira said since Arvind Kejriwal has replicated the Delhi excise policy in Punjab by putting the liquor trade into the hands of the mafia and has robbed small contractors of their livelihood, there should be a similar CBI probe ordered against this policy in Punjab to bring out the truth.

“It is an irony that while Kejriwal is crying wolf in Delhi and issuing clean chits to his ministers accused of corruption with irrefutable evidence, his government in Punjab is orchestrating a malicious and vengeful vendetta campaign in the state against political opponents on baseless allegations of corruption,” he said.

For consumers it has brought cheers with the reduction in the price.

The duties levied on liquor in the wholesale trade have been slashed by 25-60 per cent.

Also in the new policy no quota has been fixed for the sale of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) and beer, which means vend owners can sell as much liquor as they can.

Trade insiders told IANS the policy has reduced the number of groups or clusters of liquor vends from about 750 in the last financial year to 177, with the aim to increase control over the liquor trade and tap optimum revenue.

Als, the government gave its nod to allot two special battalions of police to the excise department, in addition to the existing force, for keeping an effective vigil over the excise duty pilferage.

To encourage investment, a provision for a new distillery and brewery licence has been made in the policy for the production of malt spirit which has been done to encourage crop diversification and provide better remuneration to the farmers.

A government official familiar with the matter told IANS earlier that it was the liberal liquor policy of Chandigarh that was hitting neighbouring states the most, including Punjab.

The chief ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh on several occasions had requested the Chandigarh administration to fix a quota for licensees and increase levies as these have been causing an annual revenue loss of Rs 200-Rs 300 crore to them owing to liquor smuggling.

They had argued that allocation of unlimited quota to a licencee in Chandigarh was promoting smuggling of liquor to nearby states.

“Now it is the liberal liquor policy of Punjab that is going to hit neighbouring states the most,” added the official.

In Punjab, alcohol is the maximally abused substance by more than two million people, followed by tobacco which is consumed by more than 1.5 million people, finds the latest study by the Chandigarh-based Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).

The abuse of opioids is by 1.7 lakh individuals, followed by cannabinoids as well as sedative-inhalant stimulants. The latter are largely a class of pharmacological or prescription drugs being used illicitly.

As per the State of Punjab Household Survey and statewide NCD STEPs Survey by the PGIMER, the projected number of overall substance use in Punjab is 15.4 per cent.

Coming out in support of the new liquor policy, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema said the government has targeted to generate Rs 9,600 crore as against Rs 6,200 crore in the last fiscal.

He said earlier liquor purchased from Haryana used to be sold in Punjab. “The days of the liquor mafia are over now,” he added.

Responding to Delhi’s lieutenant governor V.K. Saxena asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to inquire into the Delhi government’s excise policy, BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said the AAP government’s links with the liquor cartel would soon be exposed in Punjab too.

In Punjab also Kejriwal has tried to replicate the Delhi model which would soon be exposed, he added.

National News

Prez Murmu to address joint sitting of Parliament first time

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President Droupadi Murmu will address the joint sitting of Parliament for the first time since being elected to the post. She will outlay the government’s vision for the current year.

The Parliament Budget session will commence from Tuesday and the Finance Minister will table the Economic survey. She will present the Union budget on Wednesday.

President Droupadi Murmu, in her first Republic Day-eve speech, hailed India’s G-20 presidency, saying it is an opportunity to promote democracy and multilateralism, and also the right forum for shaping a better world and a better future.

“India holds the presidency of the Group of 20 nations. With our motto of universal brotherhood, we stand for peace and prosperity of all. Thus, the G20 presidency is an opportunity to promote democracy and multilateralism and the right forum for shaping a better world and a better future. Under India’s leadership, I am sure, the G20 will be able to further enhance its efforts to build a more equitable and sustainable world order.”

She said the ultimate goal is to create an environment in which all citizens can — individually and collectively, realise their true potential and prosper.

The President had also commended the roles of farmers, workers, scientists and engineers in the nation’s development and also praised the armed forces and paramilitary forces.

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Maharashtra

Pawar meets LS Speaker to revoke disqualification of Lakshadweep MP

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 Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar on Monday met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and urged him to revoke the disqualification of party’s Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal whose conviction has been suspended by the Kerala High Court.

Pawar said, “As the Kerala High Court suspended the conviction and sentence of the former Lakshadweep MP and hence we appealed to the honourable speaker to consider the matter of suspension.”

He said that he met with the Lok Sabha speaker and requested him to revoke the disqualification of the NCP’s MP.

The Election Commission (EC) on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it will consider the Kerala High Court order, which suspended the conviction of Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal in an attempt to murder case, and take action in accordance with the law.

Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Faizal, submitted before a bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph that the by-election cannot go on as the high court has suspended the conviction of his client.

Faizal’s conviction had resulted in his disqualification from the Lok Sabha. The bypoll was announced by the EC after Faizal was disqualified following his conviction in the case.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the EC, contended before the bench, also comprising B.V. Nagarathna, that the action will be taken in accordance with law against the backdrop of the high court order.

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National News

BJP govt in MP begins administrative surgery ahead of Assembly polls

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With around eight months left to the state legislative elections, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has started an administrative surgery.

In a notification issued by Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains late on Sunday, as many as 11 IAS officers, of them seven district collectors, have been transferred.

The transfer list issued two days before the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is scheduled to chair a high-level meeting with IAS and IPS officers in the state.

Gwalior collector Kaushlendra Singh has been shifted to Bhopal after being appointed as Additional Chief Secretary of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Akshya Kumar Singh, 2010 batch IAS, who was serving as district collector of Shivpuri, has been appointed as new district collector of Gwalior.

Ravindra Kumar Choudhary (2011 batch IAS) will be the new district collector of Shivpuri, while Khargone collector Kumar Purusottam (2012) will be new collector of Ujjain. Notably, Kumar Purusottam was appointed Khargone collector following a communal riot in April last year. Shivraj Singh Verma (2012 batch IAS) district collector of Barwani will be replacing Kumar Purusottam.

Dr. Phatting Rahul Haridas (2012), who has been serving as collector of Shivni district, will replace Shivraj Singh Verma. Similarly, Sonia Meena, collector of Anuppur has been shifted to Bhopal and has been appointed as Additional Chief Secretary in Madhya Pradesh government.

Jabalpur Municipal Commissioner Ashish Vashishtha (2014 batch IAS) will be new collector of Anuppur district, while Kshit Singhal (2014 batch IAS), who has been serving as the CEO in Sagar Zila Panchayat, has been appointed as the new district collector of Shivni.

Sources told IANS that a major reshuffle of IPS officers, including Police Commissioner Bhopal and Indore, is likely to be announced soon. The names of SP to IG rank officers are also likely to be included in the upcoming transfer list.

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