The Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka governments decided to increase taxes on liquor and fuel on Wednesday to mop up resources to fight coronavirus, a few days after Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal increased taxes on liquor.
In the past three days, states such as Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal had increased taxes on liquor to fund the fight against Covid-19.
Several states including West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand on Wednesday reported up to 20% higher excise revenue than normal days and said the rush reported on Monday was slowly tapering. As a result, lesser people were seen at liquor shops in these states.
However, women in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, Bolangir in Odisha and in some parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh protested over the reopening of liquor shops saying it would derail their families. In West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, some women wielding sticks thrashed people who queued outside liquor vends.
The Uttar Pradesh cabinet on Wednesday approved proposals making petrol, diesel and liquor costlier to earn an additional Rs 4,429 crore in 2020-2021, said state’s finance minister Suresh Khanna. He said petrol prices will increase by Rs 2 per litre from the present Rs 71.91 and diesel Re 1 per litre from Rs 62.86. The prices will increase from Wednesday night.
The cabinet decided to make liquor costlier by Rs 5 per bottle in case of country made liquor to Rs 400 per bottle (of more than 500 ml) in the case of imported brands of foreign liquor.
For brands of regular and premium categories, an additional Rs 20 will be charged on 180 ml bottle, Rs 30 on 180 ml to 500 ml bottle and Rs 50 on more than 500 ml bottle, he said. For imported liquor Rs 100 extra will be charged on 180 ml bottle while Rs 200 additional amount will be charged on 180 ml to 500 ml bottle. An additional Rs 400 will be charged on more than 500 ml of imported liquor.
Since May 4, when the liquor shops opened in the state, the government has got revenue of Rs 200 crore. “We got maximum revenue on Wednesday even though there was so much hype on Monday,” an official said. In 2019-20, UP had earned revenue of Rs 23,918 crore from liquor sales (2018-19) against the target of Rs 30,000 crore.
Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa also announced an increase in liquor prices by 11% and a stimulus package worth Rs 1,610 crore. As a part of the package, the government has decided to pay one time compensation of Rs 5,000 to Rs 60,000 to washer men (dhobis), Rs 2,30,000 to barbers, Rs 7.75 lakh to auto rickshaw and taxi drivers.
In West Bengal, a huge rush was witnessed outside liquor stores for the second consecutive day despite the government increasing the prices by 30%.
Bengal’s commissioner excise, Niranjan Das, said the sale of liquor in the last two days was about 58 crore, which is slightly higher than normal days. On an average Bengal gets Rs 25 crore from excise revenue. “On Monday, the liquor sale was about Rs 29 crore and on Tuesday it was about Rs 28 crore even though bars and liquor shops in malls are closed,” Das said, adding liquor sale contributes substantially to the state’s revenue.
Similarly, revenue from liquor sale has been encouraging in Assam. In three days, the state earned Rs 75 crore as revenue from liquor sales, which was Rs 65 crore for entire March, officials said. In April, due to lockdown, the state had earned only Rs six crore from liquor sales. Rajasthan reported revenue of Rs 40 to 45 on Tuesday and Madhya Pradesh about Rs 40 crore.
In Haryana, where shops opened on Wednesday, long queues were seen outside the liquor vends in several districts such as Bhiwani, Dadri, Rohtak and Sonepat districts. However, in many places the vends did not open in the absence of stock, officials said.
RK Pandey, a resident of Kumaon, who waited for 30 minutes outside a liquor store, said: “The liquor shop was closed for six weeks and people are not sure whether it will remain open tomorrow or not so they are stocking liquor.”
There were reports of women protesting against vends opening in some districts such as Uttarkashi and Chamoli districts. Sunita Negi, head of Virpur village said, “People have not been working here in the village and nearby villages due to the coronavirus pandemic. The situation will only worsen if liquor shops are opened as the men will spend money on liquor.”
Liquor shops remained closed in Jharkhand, Kerala and Punjab.