Bangalore, Jul 2: Good news for tipplers. Those who can’t do without their daily quota of booze and have to trudge long distances, especially in smaller towns or rural areas, need not fret anymore.
The BJP government in Karnataka headed by chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has decided to come to the `rescue’ of the habitual tipplers as also those who would like to down a few pegs occasionally by authorising state-owned MysoreSales International Limited (MSIL) to open 431 liquor shops virtually at their doorsteps in different towns and rural areas of the state to sell liquor.
Karnataka’s excise and information minister Katta Subramanya Naidu, who like his chief minister is a known tea-totaller, announced that the Excise Commissioner has been authorised to select locations for opening the liquor shops by MSIL, which would sell liquor at the government fixed maximum retail price (MRP) rates.
MSIL was established in 1966 as an undertaking of the state government under the Industries Department to meet the marketing needs of Karnataka and is engaged in diverse business interests including chit funds, books and air-cargo operations.
The minister said the Excise Department had issues licenses to open 7,950 shops last year. But 450 licence-holders had not set up shops till now due to various reasons. The government’s decision to ban the sale of arrack had posed a problem with people addicted to liquor had to depend on illicit or spurious liquor vendors.
Naidu said the government had received a large number of representations from the public and others interested in the trade to allow opening of liquor shops in order to curb the menace of illicit liquor.
Pointing out that in several rural areas and smaller towns people had to travel long distances or rely upon illicit liquor as there were no authorised liquor shops within a radius of 5 kms, the minister said the illicit and spurious liquor trade flourished. There have been instances of enterprising private individuals buying liquor from the nearest town in bulk and indulging in clandestine retail trade illegally, he said.
With MSIL authorised to open 431 liquor shops in districts which have inadequate number of shops, Naidu said the government was hopeful of tackling the menace of illicit or even unauthorised clandestine sale of liquor by individuals which also resulted in huge losses to the state exchequer.
To eliminate manufacture of spurious liquor and check illegal sale of liquor in grocery shops or by individuals, the excise department has been asked to permit opening of liquor shops for every five km.
The sale of liquor was one-and half times more in rural areas compared to cities and towns, the minister said.
Karnataka has 7,500 liquor shops, of which as many as 5,000 shops were located in rural areas and 2,500 shops in Bangalore City alone, Naidu said.
The Department has now permitted to shift the liquor shops from one place to another in the same district. There was no such provision earlier, he said.
To check illegal sale of liquor, the department has decided to set up 135 police stations in the State, he said pointing out that with the support of the police, the excise officials would step up raids and destroy spurious liquor manufacturing units.
The Excise Department earned revenue of Rs 4,200 crore during 2006-07, he said indicating that the revenue jumped to Rs 5,400 crore in 2007-08 and Rs 5,700 crore in 2008-09.
The target for the current year of 2009-10 was Rs 6,700 crore, he said.
Answering questions, the minister ruled out lifting of ban on the sale of arrack and lottery. “There is no such proposal before the Government,’’ he added.
Karnataka BJP government won election this time with the support of free liquor and money as alleged, and its clear proof and bjp justified it opening liquor shops.