Let pvt sector, not MSIL, handle liquor

The Mysore Sales International Ltd (MSIL) is getting more ambitious about its liquor business, which is wrong and unethical. The company has made a proposal to the state excise department for setting up 1,500 retail outlets for sale of liquor all over the state. The liquor sales business in the state is dominated by the private sector, which runs over 9,000 stores. The MSIL has over 400 outlets and it is unable to set up more stores in some places because of opposition from the people of the localities. But it is undeterred and is planning an robust expansion of its liquor business, tempted by the profits that the business may bring in. It has projected the state’s excise revenue to grow to about Rs 35,000 crore in the next five years and wants to cash in on it. There will not be any discrimination: all constituencies will get an equal number of liquor outlets.

The plan is wrong in the first place because the government has no business to sell liquor to people. Consumption of liquor is not good for health, and hurts personal and family finances. Selling it amounts to encouraging the consumption, whatever be the excuses and explanations offered for it. Setting up more liquor stores may bring more revenue, but revenue and profits should not be the only consideration for the government to start and do an activity. There may even be other kinds of business which are more rewarding but not good for the people. Would the government start them? The government’s job is governance and administration, it is not business and commerce. Just as a ban on liquor is bad policy, production and sale of liquor by the government is wrong policy. It is not in public interest. When the revenue from an enterprise is tainted in some way, the government should shun it.

Liquor sales, wholesale or retail, should be left to the private sector, and the government should keep away from it. While the government is receding from many areas and privatisation is increasing, the proposal to increase the government’s role in liquor sales is going against the trend. The argument that the MSIL should set up stores because private retailers are violating the MRP norms and there is leakage of revenue through pilferage is not tenable. The government has a big machinery which can be used to stop irregularities. It should not only drop the idea of starting new liquor outlets
but also shut down those which it is already operating.

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