Excise dept kept in dark about denotification of State Highways: Dama Rout

Bhubaneswar: To circumvent Supreme Court’s liquor shop ban along national and state highways, the Odisha government’s recent announcement to denotify state highways as urban roads, hit the first hurdle after State Excise minister Damodar Rout on Tuesday alleged that his department was not consulted before taking such a decision.

The minister stated though the decision was taken at a high level meeting, his department was not kept in the loop.

“The decision about classification of roads was taken by the Works Department. But I am surprised that we are not consulted in this regard,” Rout said. As if we were not part of the process initiated by the government,” he noted.

“Now, they (liquor shop owners) can open shops and are eligible to sell liquor,” stated he.

Rout’s statement has not only exposed the lack of co-ordination between two departments, but the State government’s desperate attempt to increase excise revenue in the current financial year. Official sources said, it is estimated that the State exchequer will lose about Rs 1,100 crore in 2017-18 due to the closure of 1,167 liquor shops as per the apex court order. The excise revenue of the State for 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 3,600 crore which is about 10 percent more than the 2016-17 target of Rs 3,300 crore. However, demonetisation had caused a dip in the revenue collection which stood at Rs 3,000 crore in 2016-17.

Following the Supreme Court’s order to remove all liquor shops within a distance of 500 metres from either side of the national and state highways by March 31, the Works Department, on April 13 said the roads passing through the municipal corporations, municipalities, notified area councils and sub-divisional headquarters have been re-designated as “urban roads”. Besides these, it also classified all road sections falling within the limits of block headquarters and tehsil headquarters as “urban roads”.

}