New Delhi: Amid an ongoing investigation by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and a face-off between Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena and the Delhi government, the liquor policy row in the capital has taken a fresh turn. With only two days left for the current excise policy to expire, the Delhi government has decided to go back to the old regime of retail liquor sales for six months.
The Excise Policy 2021-22, which was extended twice after March 31 for two months each, will expire on July 31. As per the official document, the finance department has instructed the excise commissioner to cooperate with the heads of four Delhi government corporations for information on liquor vends managed by them before the new excise policy takes effect on November 17, 2021. Before the Excise Policy 2021-22, the four corporations- Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), Delhi Consumer’s Cooperative Wholesale Store (DCCWS), and Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation (DSCSC) — ran the majority of the city’s liquor stores. Under the new strategy, 849 liquor vending licences were awarded to private enterprises through open bidding.
The city was divided into 32 zones, each with a maximum of 27 vending machines. Instead of individual licences, bidding was done on a zone-by-zone basis, with each bidder limited to bidding for a maximum of two zones. Previously, four government organisations handled 475 of Delhi’s 864 liquor establishments. Individual licences for private stores numbered 389. The finance department has requested that the excise department produce facts on old vends, including their location, number of workers deployed, rented or government premises, by Friday as a ‘topmost priority’.
The strained ties between the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi worsened last week when Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, holding Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in-charge of the excise department, accountable. Right after this move, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the Centre, saying the Lieutenant Governor was making ‘false allegations’ and leaders of the AAP were ‘not afraid of jail’.
The Lt Governor’s move follows a report submitted by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar on the matter. The report, which officials said was submitted on July 8, accuses Sisodia of providing undue benefits to liquor vend licencees in lieu of ‘kickbacks’ and ‘commissions’ and the money being used in the recent Punjab elections. On July 25, the Delhi Congress staged a protest outside Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s residence here, demanding his resignation over alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in the city government’s excise policy. Congress leaders and workers gathered in Patparganj, holding banners and raised slogans against Sisodia and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar alleged that Sisodia, the minister in-charge of the Delhi government’s excise department, is directly responsible for ‘corrupt deals’ with liquor contractors.