Earlier on January 23 this year, the Yogi Adityanath government had approved the new excise policy for 2018-19 to demolish the well-entrenched hegemony of liquor cartels and big traders in the state-organised liquor retail space. UP health minister and government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh had then said the new policy was aimed at hitting crony capitalism and monopoly in liquor trade and introducing transparency in the department’s functioning.
For example, the new policy had dismantled the special Meerut excise zone, created during the erstwhile Mayawati regime (2007-12), consisting of Meerut, Saharanpur, Moradabad and Bareilly divisions, purportedly to benefit liquor baron late Ponty Chadha’s Wave Group, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly on UP’s retail liquor trade. Wave Group firms were awarded not only wholesale, but retail contracts as well in Meerut zone under successive policy regimes.
Besides, the bidding for liquor shops was mandated by the new policy to be held online and traders were required to bid individually for each retail outlet. An individual bidder could bid maximum for two liquor shops in a district, so that any potential build-up of monopoly could be nipped in the bud. Currently, there are about 18,000 liquor shops in the state.
To check illegal liquor trade and smuggling, which robs exchequer of rightful revenue, the new policy framework had also scrapped the use of holograms on liquor bottles and instead introduced ‘trace and track’ system for real-time tracking of goods during transportation and storage.
Liquor smuggling had been quite rampant in western Uttar Pradesh due to higher excise duty in the state compared to the neighbouring states. Meanwhile, the government on a regular basis coordinates with the neighbouring states particularly Haryana to curb bootlegging.
During Apr-Aug 2018, the excise department has conducted over 142,000 raids across the state, arrested 1,031 persons, impounded 326 vehicles and seized 0.6 million litres of illegal liquor. Last year, the department had seized 2 million litres of illicit liquor and arrested 4,218 persons in 143,848 raids.