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Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Amidst liquor deaths across Odisha, the standing committee of Excise Department of Odisha government has come up with a suggestion to open more Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) shops and reward successful licensed traders.

The panel, which is headed by BJD MLA Subrat Tarai, sought more IMFL-off shops to generate more revenue and to check illegal trafficking of spurious liquor.

Presenting its report in the Assembly on Friday, the panel said the Excise Department generated resources for the state government and stressed on the rationalisation of minimum guaranteed quantity (MGQ) of shops located in rural areas.

"The exclusive privilege holders, who meet the MGQ fixed for the shop and cross it substantially, should be rewarded appropriately," the standing committee said in its recommendation.

It also recommended increase in staff strength, providing more infrastructural support to officers of the department and establishment of more depots of Odisha State Beverages Corporation (OSBC) with appropriate infrastructure to facilitate supply of liquor to retailers.

The panel observed that the department has been meeting its revenue collection target and the Excise revenue has increased from Rs 849 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 3,925 crore in 2018-19.

With rising trend of consumption of different beverages such as India-made foreign liquor (IMFL), beer and country spirit in the state, an Excise revenue target of Rs 4,600 crore has been set for the 2019-20 fiscal.

The state run OSBC's total turnover increased from Rs 735.28 crore during 2007-08 to Rs 4,738.36 crore in 2018-19.

Odisha Mada Mukti Abhijan, a body demanding total prohibition in the state, has condemned the committee's recommendation. "We fail to understand how a trader is to be rewarded for selling more liquor and not a teacher or doctor for their best service to the people. We urge the government not to accept the committee's recommendation," said Prahallad Singh, a leader of the organisation.

Speaking on the issue, member of the standing committee and former Excise Minister, Sura Routray, said,” No such recommendation has been made. Naveen Patnaik government is earning Rs 4500 crore but still they are claiming that they are running out of funds. They are shamelessly declaring that they will award those who sell more liquor. They should rather award farmers, students and industrialists who are doing well.”

Senior BJP leader and former Excise Minister Damodar Rout said, “Naveen Patnaik has made the situation so bad that there is no place in Odisha where there are no drunkards."

However, BJD leader and former Excise Minister Sashi Bhushan Behera said that the recommendation of the Standing Committee has not been accepted.

“If there is any such recommendation to stop the illegal sale of liquor, it is not necessary that it will be accepted in the House. Only after a discussion and approval by all members, it will be accepted,” Behera said.

(With Agency inputs)

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