Wine traders demand rehabilitation after losing livelihood in e-auction

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, May 9: Hundreds of wine traders who lost their livelihood after the introduction of e-auction of liquor vends in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday made a fervent appeal to Lt Governor Manoj Sinha for their rehabilitation.
Majority of 228 liquor traders lost their shops in the e-auction last month, which fetched a whopping Rs 140 crore for one year to the administration as against Rs 10 crore on account of the annual renewal of the license in the past.
“We were in wine trade for five decades and the sudden government decision to introduce e-auction was protested by us as we were aware that we are not in a position to compete with proxy bidders and retain the source of our livelihood,” Jammu Wine Traders’ Association (JWTA) president Charanjeet Singh said.
He said the administration paid no heed to their protests which continued for months together. Only 20 of the traders managed to retain their shops while the rest of over 200 have lost their business in the e-auction, directly and indirectly affecting 30,000 families, Singh added.
“The Government has left us hapless. It announced the introduction of e-auction on the eve of the new financial year without caring for us. We have huge liabilities like housing and vehicle loans. How will we clear these liabilities?” Singh asked, making an appeal to the Lt Governor to look into their plight and announce a rehabilitation policy for them.
He claimed that two of the traders died in the past week due to the depression.
“Avtar Singh was perturbed after losing his shop and suffered a massive heart attack resulting in his death, while a woman, who was also a co-owner of a shop, breathed her last two days ago,” Singh said.
He said the traders would have taken to the streets to continue their protest against the administration’s policy but given the prevailing situation due to the second wave of COVID-19, “we do not want to lose our family after losing the source of livelihood.”
He alleged that the liquor mafia from outside J&K has taken over the trade in the e-auction through proxy bidders.
The policy envisaged allotment of liquor shops to the residents of J&K but given the bidding pattern in the e-auction, anyone can guess that the trade has gone into the hands of liquor mafia from outside J-K, he said, claiming that the new policy facilitated the elimination of local businessmen from the trade and befitted rich capitalists from outside J&K.
He said the Government should have issued new licenses in unserved and underserved areas while safeguarding their interests.