Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: The decision of the Odisha government to award liquor shop licences through lottery system has sparked a row with the Opposition alleging that the move is aimed at favouring the supporters of the ruling party.

As per the notification of the State excise department, the government will settle all the existing sanctioned IMFL 'OFF' and Country Liquor (ENA based) shops afresh for the year 2021-22 onwards through the process of lottery inviting applications on fixed monthly consideration money.

An applicant has to submit non-refundable application fee of Rs 1 lakh through online. He also has to deposit online EMD equivalent to three months' consideration money of the shop applied for. In the case of unsuccessful applicants the EMD will be refunded online within 15 days of completion of lottery.

The license once granted will continue for a period of five years and the licensee will have to renew the license from year to year till completion of five years.

However, existing liquor shop licensees feel the new licensing policy will adversely affect them as they would not able to take part in the lottery process for failing to fulfil the minimum guarantee quota (MGQ).

"The liquor shops remained shut for 4-5 months due to Covid-19 and many licensees could not fulfil their MGQ. Therefore, the existing licensees cannot participate in the lottery process," said Pravat Das, Khordha Wine Merchants Association.

However, excise department secretary Sushil Lohani said the lottery system has been introduced to provide equal opportunity to all. "After 2002-03, liquor shop licensees are getting extension on their existing licences. Therefore the government has decided to conduct the lottery system," he said.

The government has also decided to increase monthly consideration money by 20 per cent and annual minimum guarantee quota by 5 per cent over the present rate (2020-21) for all IMFL 'OFF' shops.

Mohan Majhi, BJP chief whip, said, "It seems like an illegal practice. The move aims at giving licences to the ruling party's own supporters."

Congress spokesperson Nishikanta Mishra said, "The government has started this process to give more profit to big traders and ruin the marginal ones. The traders of the state will be directly affected by it."

Reacting to the allegations, BJD MLA Debi Prasad Mishra said, "All should get equal opportunity and therefore the excise department has come up with the measure. They (Opposition) should have made dialogue if there is any alternative way for equal distribution without any revenue loss."

(Edited By Surykant Jena)