e-auctioning of retail liquor vends

To root out cartelization and monopoly of certain individuals through their firms, UT Government proposing to allot retail liquor vends through e-auction is a right step towards the prevalent practice of lesser firms or individuals being in the trade and promoting unwarranted monopolistic tendencies, to be replaced by more people applying for allotment of the liquor vends. Not only was the move going to bring in more transparency in allotment but was aimed at doing away with the practice of making allotments in most of the cases on the recommendations of some Ministers of successive Governments in the erstwhile state and that too over phone calls about which we had duly voiced concern through these columns. Now that the new Excise Policy of 2021-22 is undergoing the process of inviting suggestions and feedback from the public domain, it is expected that the norms of the tenor of the licences allotted would be just for one year only and at the top of it, allotted only to the domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir. The main salient feature of the policy being ”one shop to one individual” needs to be enforced meticulously.
If we go deep into the circumstances into the Government coming out with more inelastic provisions in respect of the new Excise Policy, it would be seen that all was not fair in the Excise Department as various irregularities in allotment had come to the fore. ‘Temporary’ licences had been issued to 61 vendors last time which later had to be withdrawn and a court case too was filed whereby the High Court ordered to cancel the licences of these vendors. Other areas where the court delivered the judgment gave the department the requisite authority to deal with the licences as it deemed fit. In other words, instead of renewing the existing licences of 223 vends who had such allotments till 2023, fresh allotments shall now be done through e-auctioning meaning that such licences irrespective of up to which period granted, stand totally cancelled. The Draft Policy, however, rules out any type of additions to the existing number of vends as also allotments are to be in the same area where the retail outlets are in operation presently.
We fully endorse the proposed guidelines whereby only one licence per individual or firm shall be sanctioned instead of even multiple licences having been granted to many an individual and still existing as on date under the old arrangement. One who offers the highest bid for a particular location / premise of the vend, the Excise Department shall decide allotment only on that condition which means chances of more revenue to the Government as Excise Duty is one of the main sources of the revenues of the UT Government. Granting licences to manufacturing units, bottling plants, distilleries, breweries etc shall be on the same lines as hitherto but for fresh applications a token fees of Rs. one lakh was to be charged indicating no opportunity to mop more revenue was lost. In the Excise Policy of 2021-22, the focus will be on transparency and boosting of revenues through rationalization of duties.
While there can be no two opinions about the need of a transparent, strict and comprehensive Excise Policy which aims at making the entire exercise of granting licences through auctioning quite smooth and workable besides continuing to contribute towards increased revenues, at the same time it is to be realised that the policy should not be that rigid so as to frustrate or unnecessarily subject the vendors to hardships of administrative hues. It is, however, a workable proposal to facilitate setting up of liquor vends having high revenue potential in tourist locations of the UT in Government owned JKTDC premises and the like.