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Himachal

Posted at: Jan 14, 2018, 12:06 AM; last updated: Jan 14, 2018, 12:06 AM (IST)

HPBCL closure has consumers on edge

Bhanu P Lohumi

Tribune News Service

Shimla, January 13

Abrupt decision of the Cabinet to wind up Himachal Pradesh Beverages Corporation Limited (HPBCL) has caused anxiety among liquor consumers, leaving department officials confused.

Uncertainly looms large as the new excise policy will be implemented in the next financial year (2018-19) and in case the HPBCL becomes non-functional, the retailers and consumers would face great hardships. Besides, the revenue of the government would also be hit and the tax revenue targets of the government would be far short of targets.

The HPBCL was set up to handle the liquor trade and had eliminated the wholesalers as the procurement and distribution of liquor was entrusted to the corporation. It was also running the retail business in districts like Chama and Una, where the auctions had failed and no bidder turned up even at the sixth bidding last year.

“The process of winding up the corporation has set in and it would be completed by end of financial year and new excise policy would be in place in 2018-19. However, 53 wholesale licenses given to private parties would be cancelled forthwith and a notification in this regard would be issued”, said highly placed sources in the excise and taxation department.

With the setting up of the Corporation, the wholesale liquor trade had become monopoly of the government and the BJP, which was in opposition had criticised the new policy and alleged “favouritism and corruption” and promised to wind up the corporation.

The decision of the government to replace the MRP (maximum retail price) with MSP (minimum sale price) became bane of local consumers and tourists and complaints of high prices charged by the retailers galore. The retailers also complained that they were not getting the brands of their choice and in spite of online bookings supplies were not reaching on time.

However, the move has brought cheers to commoners who feel that with the new policy there could be a tab on the maximum retail price which would ensure that the buyers are not fleeced like they are being at present.

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