Election Commission of India (ECI) has given green signal to opening of over 1350 new private run retail liquor shops across the state from Monday.
State Excise commissioner Bhor Singh Yadav said, “The existing government run shops will seize to operate after the closing time on Sunday and from Monday, over 1350 shops, which were handed over to private parties after a lottery on March 5, will start functioning.”
The sale timing for private retail shops would be from 11 AM to 11 PM as opposed to 1 PM to 10 PM, which was the timing for government shops.
The annual revenue target from the shops for Year 2019-20 has been set for Rs. 1,558 crore, which is Rs 558 crore more than the target of Rs. 1000 crore for Financial Year 2018-19.
Worried over the loss of revenue State government would have to face if the private liquor shops did not start from April 1, the State Excise and Prohibition Department sought permission from the ECI for starting the shops on the said time, instead of waiting two months for the Lok Sabha elections to get over.
The department claimed that since the Jharkhand Excise (settlement and Operation of Retail Liquor Shop) Rule, 2018 notified in December 2018 do not provide for extension or issuance of new licenses to Jharkhand State Beverage Corporation Ltd, the existing licensee of liquor shops running in the state, the State would lose around Rs. 300 crore worth of revenue in the first three months of financial year.
Also, if the liquor shops remain closed it will create a disruption in the supply chain, leading to illegal manufacture and sale which might be hazardous.
Backing up the department's request, the Chief Election Officer of Jharkhand wrote in the letter to ECI that denial of opening of new shops will bring a loss of Rs. 200 crore in April and May and will also lead to illicit liquor business, leading to adverse law and order situation in the State which may affect smooth conduct of election.
Following the permission from ECI, the Excise department issued a notification on Sunday regarding the closure of existing shops and starting of new retail liquor shops. The notification said that the after the shops close on Sunday night, the keys of the shops have to be handed over to the excise officers. Also, the day's income by selling liquor has to be submitted to the local police station which will be deposited in the bank account of JSBCL on the opening of banks.
A total of 1664 shops in 799 groups had to be given in private hands through e-lottery system. The lottery was conducted on March 5 in which settlement of over 1350 in 686 groups was done. No applications were received for 113 groups.