Odisha Collectors conferred outright powers in liquor licensing

Bhubaneswar: It seems that Odisha government has now come up with a new strategy to collect funds for the upcoming elections by bestowing outright powers to district magistrates to grant new liquor licences in the State.

As per a notification of the Excise Department, the powers to grant licence for new liquor shops (both foreign and country made liquor) will now solely be with district magistrates or collectors as per the Odisha Excise Act, 2013.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub section (2) of the Odisha Excise Act, 2018 (Odisha Act 10 of 2013), the State government do hereby confer on the Collector of the district the power to grant exclusive privilege of sale of foreign liquor, manufacture and sale of India made foreign liquor, country liquor and other intoxicants.”

At a time when anti-liquor protests have intensified in several parts of the State, such directive of the State government with elections round the corner has come under scanner.

Such move might have been taken to please party activists and to pass the buck to bureaucracy in case of any illicit hooch tragedy, said former Excise Commissioner, Sudarshan Nayak.

“Liquor licences should not be granted without approvals from the State government. It may such happen that new licences will be granted during elections to please their own party activists. New licences will be issued but government will not be responsible if anything goes wrong as the burden will now be on bureaucracy or the Collectors,” said Nayak.

Former Excise Minister and senior BJD leader Damodar Rout has also criticized the new Excise Policy of the Odisha government citing that such move will certainly lead to rise in crime and it is absolutely not in the interests of the State.

“Liquor is the root cause of various evils in the society. During election, many candidates distribute liquor. I have no idea who has given such suggestion and taken such a decision,” said Rout.

However, Excise Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera stated that the move will lead to rise in revenue.

“Odisha government will only sanction while Collector will be the licensing authority. Though it is nothing new, the notification was issued as it was in the pipeline since long,” said Behera.