Decks cleared for re-opening liquor shops from Monday

(EDS: UPDATING WITH QUOTES OF CM, MINISTER) Puducherry, May 23 (PTI) Liquor business would resume in Puducherry and Karaikal regions from Monday as Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi has approved levy of special excise duty on all categories of liquor in the regions.

The Chief Minister V Narayanasamy told reporters here on Sunday that the liquor shops would resume business on May 25 as Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi has given nod to fix COVID-19 special excise duty on all liquor products.

He said Bedi has been insisting that the price of the liquor products here should be on par with the price prevailing in neighbouring Tamilnadu.

He pointed out that the gazette notification for the COVID-19 tax has been brought out.

Narayanasamy said the resumption of liquor business would trigger reactivating of several other allied activities, including tourism, in the Union Territory.

PWD and Excise Minister A Namassivayam told PTI the price of liquor here was fixed on par with that in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

'If our pricing is less than Tamilnadu's, it will possibly open the floodgates for customers to rush to Puducherry from neighbouring states and it will be a risky scenario particularly in the current context of the pandemic,' he said.

Shops that had been facingaction for alleged illegal sale of liquor during lockdown would not reopen, a spokesman of the liquor merchants said.

'Revenue from excise is crucial for the payment of salaries to government staff, implement welfare schemes and funding various projects. The flow of revenue had dried up since the last two months because of the lockdown...' he said quoting the Chief Minister.

Earlier, Bedi approved the special coronavirus fee due to outbreak of the infection by way of special excise duty on maximum retail prices of all categories of liquor in Puducherry and Karaikal regions, a press release from the Lieutenant Governor's office said on Saturday night.

The file relating to the levy of the special excise duty was forwarded to her for approval by the cabinet with its decision on the levy of the special duty.

Bedi's approval of the duty clears the decks for the re-opening of liquor shops in the regions. The actual quantum of levy of the special fee could not be known immediately.

Excise is the major source of revenue to the territorial Administration. The levy of special duty is to mop up revenue to the government.

The issue had been a bone of contention between Bedi and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy stepping up his tirade against her.

The Chief Minister had alleged that Bedi was preventing through several unacceptable and objectionable ways the flow of revenue to the fund-starved territorial administration.

In his daily press briefings so far, the Chief Minister had been saying that 'the police department has been instigated by Bedi to file cases against liquor merchants on flimsy grounds.' 'The police have no right to intervene in the working of the excise department and hence by misusing their authority they were unnecessary dislocating the working of the liquor business by taking action against the merchants,' he had said.

It is known to all that the licencees authorised to import liquor from other places or those selling the product within the Union Territory remit the excise duty before doing their business. The duty thus paid in keeping with Excise rules by the merchants ultimately comes to the state Exchequer, he had said.

The Chief Minister had said during the current lockdown the merchants were put to unnecessary hardship allegedly by the overstepping attitude of the police. He accused the police of dancing to the tune of the Lieutenant Governor by filing false cases against liquor dealers on the basis of complaints given by those indulging in blackmarket activities. PTI COR NVG NVG