J&K wine traders protest against new excise policy

Wine traders continue protest in J&K against new excise policy

The policy envisages allotment of liquor shops to the residents of the Union Territory through e-auction

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

Hundreds of wine traders on Tuesday staged a protest here against e-auction of liquor vends under the new excise policy in Jammu and Kashmir, saying they are not in a position to compete with bidders from outside the Union Territory to retain their source of livelihood.

The protesters, who have closed their shops over the past several days, assembled outside the Press Club here and staged a peaceful demonstration in support of their demand for continuation of the previous policy of renewal of their licence on a yearly basis.

"We are on the roads for the last nearly one month but nobody is paying any heed... We are concerned about the new policy which will eliminate local businessmen from the trade and benefit rich capitalists from outside J&K," Jammu Wine Traders Association president Charanjeet Singh told reporters.

He said the traders have already rejected this policy.

"None of us can afford to compete in the e-auction as we are small traders who earn their livelihood from this business for decades," he said.

Claiming that the excise department had recommended continuation of the renewal system for a couple of years to provide local traders enough time before introducing e-auction, he alleged that there is someone in the administration who is hand-in-glove with the liquor mafia to facilitate the entry of people into the trade from outside J&K.

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

As per the draft policy, the allotment of liquor vends through e-auction would be in a completely open and transparent manner in the same area where liquor shops already exist.

The policy envisages allotment of liquor shops to the residents of the Union Territory through e-auction. Any person who is eligible for grant of licence as per the provisions of the excise act and rules will be eligible for participation in the e-auction process.

"The vends shall be allotted for a period of one year as per the provisions of the J&K Excise Act and Rules. The total number of shops to be allotted would be the same as existing at present and there would be no increase in the number of vends to be auctioned," it said, adding only a single outlet will be allotted to one person.

Singh said the rich people can bid a huge amount of money, which is required to run this business as per new draft policy, thus snatching livelihood from small traders and creating a liquor mafia.

The JWTA president said the government can issue new licences in unserved and underserved areas while safeguarding their interests.

"The liquor traders are working as revenue collecting agents of the government and fully abide by the rules and regulations," he said.