E-bidding For Liquor Licenses To End Monopoly: Excise Commissioner

 Representational Photo

Jammu: Amid the ongoing stir by wine traders, Jammu and Kashmir Excise Commissioner Rahul Sharma on Wednesday defended the new policy as "transparent" and said e-bidding for liquor licenses was introduced to end monopoly.

However, the protesting traders accused the department of hoodwinking the public by its "false narrative”.

In an advertisement in a local daily, Sharma highlighted various points of the new policy and also tried to allay apprehensions of the wine traders that people from outside the Union Territory would be accommodated and provided contracts under the garb of the new policy.

"The e-bidding for liquor licenses is confined to the domiciles of J&K only and it will therefore provide employment only to locals. It ends monopoly," Sharma said, adding equal opportunity to all has been provided to participate in the e-auction process for allotment of liquor licenses and to stop perpetual transfers within family.

"One individual-one vend will restrict the practice of monopoly. Solvency certificate of immovable property equivalent to bid amount provides due safeguard that only residents of J&K can participate. Further, it will also check proxy and speculative bidding," he said.

The excise commissioner said the new policy is only an attempt to implement law of the land and judgments of the high court. "The new policy is completely transparent and no functionary in UT can favour or disfavour any prospective bidder. It ends favoritism.”

Sharma said auction of liquor vends only on existing locations which have been functioning for past many years ensures that public sentiments are fully taken into account.

The Jammu Wine Traders Association (JWTA) accused the excise department of misleading the public through the advertisement and challenged it to justify each point before them.

"The new policy is full of flaws and is a death knell for the Jammu wine traders who cannot compete in e-auction to save their decades old business the high court judgment clearly mentions that the renewal of license of the trade in liquor is permissible under law," JWTA member Devender Singh told reporters here.

He said the department is boasting of transparency, "which cannot be guaranteed as in 2005 one of its own employees was involved in the fraud during the introduction of the e-lottery system”.

"The department is speaking about ending monopoly. By the new policy, a family can manage to get multiple licenses. The solvency certificate is only meant to safeguard the government revenue instead of providing safeguards to a trader, who, in case of any untoward incident, cannot transfer the license to his or her family member," he said.

Traders Federation president Deepak Gupta extended his support to the agitating wine traders and urged Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister Jitendra Singh to personally look into their demands and safeguard their livelihood by reviewing the new policy.

Hundreds of wine traders are on streets over the past one month in protest against e-auction of liquor vends under the new excise policy.

The JWTA said 30,000 families are directly or indirectly involved in earning their livelihood from this business and most of the present licensees are widows, senior citizens and unemployed youth who have no other source of income.

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