Assam mulls lowering excise to stop liquor smuggling: Excise minister (IANS Interview)

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Guwahati, Aug 3 (IANS) Reduce taxes to reduce prices. Which is precisely what the Assam government is mulling to prevent liquor being bootlegged from neighbouring states.

“There is huge smuggling of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) brands to Assam from neighbouring states like Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, where the prices are less. This is causing revenue loss for Assam. We are comparing the prices of different IMFL brands with our neighbouring states. Our plan is to lower the taxes, which will result in comparative rates with the neighbouring states and we can check the revenue loss to the state,” Assam Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya told IANS in an interview.

The proposal awaits cabinet approval, added the senior BJP leader, who took charge of the department only a year back.

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“The brands we sell here are costlier than those in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. So people in bordering areas often smuggle IMFL meant to be sold in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh to Assam. A huge smuggling racket is working and as a result the state is losing revenue,” the minister noted.

The extent of the problem can be gauged from the fact that at least 30 percent of the total IMFL consumed in nine districts of upper Assam are smuggled from Arunachal Pradesh.

Suklabaidya has resorted to several bold steps after assuming charge and the excise revenue has gone up by more than Rs 150 crore in fiscal 2016-17 compared to 2015-16. While the state earned excise revenue of Rs 799.53 crore in 2015-16, this rose to Rs 966.33 crore in the 2016-17.

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The minister said his intention is not to encourage drinking but stop smuggling and increase revenues. “Those who have the drinking habit will continue with it. However, the state is losing revenue due to some administrative hitches. I want to make the system clear so that there is no smuggling,” he asserted.

He also listed the steps taken to prevent corruption and make the system more transparent.

“We have taken the entire process of issuing licences for the production and sale of IMFL online to make it more transparent. Now, anyone can log on to our website and check the status of anything. This has not only helped us make things more transparent but we have been able to stop revenue leakages in the department,” Suklabaidya explained.

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The minister has also lowered the rate for renewing licence fees for wholesalers and retailers. While the erstwhile Congress government had increased the fees by up to 500 percent, the BJP-led alliance government had reduced this from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 1 lakh for retailers and from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for wholesalers.

“The results are amazing. The initiative has led to 21 percent increase in revenue,” the minister said, adding that his target is to increase excise revenue to around Rs 1,400 in the current fiscal.

(Aditya Baruah can be contacted at [email protected])

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