'Corona Curfew' extended till May 31 in Himachal

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Shimla, May 24 (PTI) The Himachal Pradesh government has extended the 'Corona Curfew' in the state till May 31, an official spokesperson said.

The decision to extend the curfew till 6 am on May 31 was taken in the state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur here on Monday, the spokesperson said.

The curfew had earlier been imposed till May 26.

The chief minister told the media that the number of COVID-19 cases had been decreasing gradually since imposition of the curfew in the state but the decision to extend it was taken to further bring down the active case count.

Admitting that different sections of the society, including shopkeepers and taxi operators, are facing a lot of problems due to the curfew, the chief minister said the state government would consider what could be done to provide relief to them.

Himachal Pradesh reported 1,949 new COVID-19 cases and 61 related fatalities on Monday, pushing the state's infection tally to 1,80,983 and the death toll to 2,813, an official said.

According to the state health department, there are 24,181 active novel coronavirus cases in Himachal Pradesh.

As many as 3,686 patients have recuperated from the disease in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 1,53,964, the official said.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson said the cabinet meeting decided that the Department of Health would encourage private hospitals to increase vaccination.

The cabinet gave its approval to excise policy for the financial year 2021-22 which envisages collection of Rs 1,829 crore revenue during the year, which is Rs 228 crore higher than that in 2020-21, registering an increase of 14 per cent.

In view of the Covid situation, the excise year 2020-21 has been extended by one month up to June 30, 2021. The new excise policy will be operational for nine months that is 1st July 2021 to 31st March 2022.

Further, approval was also given for the renewal of retail excise vends in the state for 2021-22 for the renewal fees of 3 per cent of the value of unit or vend with an objective to gain adequate enhancement in government revenue, reduction in the price of liquor and to curb its smuggling from the neighbouring states, he added.

According to the new policy, low-price brands of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) will be cheaper as license fees and excise duty have been reduced, facility of transfer of quota within district and inter-district has been approved.

The new excise policy also allows 15 per cent of country liquor quota for liquor manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees, the spokesperson added.

The balance 85 per cent quota can be lifted by the retail licensees from the suppliers of their choice. This was earlier 30 per cent. It envisages the increase in license fees by 5 per cent and quota by 3 per cent.

New license for serving of liquor in tented accommodation has been approved and new licenses for visitor centre in wine manufacturing units and wine tasting festivals has been approved.

Similarly, new license in form D-2E has been approved for production of ethanol for the purpose of exclusive supply to petroleum companies, sale of certain high-end brands of liquor in departmental store through license in form L-10BB has been approved subject to certain terms and conditions and liquor quota of bars attached to hotels has been reduced by 50 per cent.

License fees for CSD canteens have been reduced and facility of liquor canteen license in L-9 and L-9A has been allowed to all the Central Armed Police Forces.

The cabinet has approved in-principle to have Excise Police in the Excise and Taxation Department to check the inter-state and intra-state smuggling of liquor, illicit trade and bootlegging of liquor leading to substantial loss of excise revenue to the government exchequer.

The cabinet also decided to extend the current year toll leases by one month up to June 30, 2021 which subsequently would be auctioned. The leases for the year 2021-22 would be operational from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, he added. PTI DJI CK

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