Friday, May 7, 2010

Lok Satta Party lashes out at Govt. liquor policy

The Lok Satta Party today flayed the Andhra Pradesh Government for persisting with its policy of liquor auctions unmindful of the havoc liquor has played with the lives of nearly 75 lakh families in the State.

When shops are auctioned to highest bidders, shop owners are forced to maximize their earnings by promoting and encouraging as many unauthorized outlets or belt shops as possible. A random survey by the Lok Satta has revealed that there are already 150,000 belt shops in the State.

Talking to the media, Lok Satta Party leaders Mr.V.Laxman Balaji, Mr. P. Bhaskara Rao pointed out that the liquor has become the main source of revenue to the Andhra Pradesh Government. The State Government will be earning Rs.15000 crore in the Excise Year beginning on July 1 by way of license fees, excise and sales tax and other incidental charges.

The Lok Satta leaders said the revenue the State Government generates by promoting liquor consumption is much more than what it spends on schemes like supply of rice at Rs.2 a kg, INDIRAMMA houses, pensions to the aged, widows and the physically disabled and tuition fee reimbursement and scholarships to students.

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences for the World Health Organization, alcohol generates a revenue of Rs.21,600 crore while the losses caused by it in terms of health amount to Rs.24,400 crore. The gain of Rs.15000 crore to the Andhra Pradesh by way of liquor would mean a loss of Rs.16,944 crore to the public in terms of health care costs.

The Lok Satta leaders expressed surprise that the Andhra Pradesh Government has not bothered to heed the advice of the Union Health Ministry that the Excise Department be stripped of the responsibility of alcohol related regulations since its primary focus always remained on maximizing revenue and not people’s health. The Union Health Ministry suggested that the State Department of Health and Family Welfare be entrusted with the development and implementation of an overall Alcohol Consumption Control Policy.

The Lok Satta leaders appealed to the State Government to fall in line with the Government of India advice and seek compensation from it for loss of revenue because of curbs on alcohol consumption.

The Lok Satta leaders in a letter to the Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad wanted him to ensure that concrete measures are put in place so that Health Departments are empowered to oversee all alcohol-related issues, in the States. If necessary, the Government of India can legislate under Article 249 of the Constitution on a subject in the State list.

The Lok Satta leaders recalled that the State Government had constituted a committee to carry on an anti-liquor campaign to camouflage its drive to maximize revenue from liquor sales and douse protests from women’s organizations. This year, the Government had given up even that pretence since it did not re-appoint the committee once its term expired.

The Lok Satta would like the State Government to run liquor shops instead of auctioning them and limit their total number to the barest minimum. It would want the Government to empower panchayats to curb illicit liquor distillation and unauthorized liquor outlets.

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