Lucknow: Accusing the AAP government in Delhi of “corrupt practices” that benefited the “liquor mafia”, Uttar Pradesh Excise Minister Nitin Agarwal on Sunday said the excise police under the Yogi Adityanath government was “transparent”.
Unlike Delhi, Agarwal said, one person cannot get more than two liquor shops in UP.
There have been no deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor in the current term of the Adityanath-led government, Agarwal told PTI in an interview.
Targeting the AAP, the UP minister said, “Excise has been a much-discussed matter, with irregularities worth crores. To whom has the money gone? Who has benefited from it? The AAP should answer this.”
Delhi government’s now-scrapped excise policy for 2021-22 came under the scanner after the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in its implementation.
“Why is it worried? Now that central agencies are investigating, they are getting nervous and are blaming the BJP. This makes it clear that the leaders who were responsible had some involvement in the excise scam, and that they had benefited from the liquor mafia,’ said Agarwal, the Minister of State (independent charge) for Excise and Prohibition.
Excise policy cases are being investigated by both the CBI and the ED.
According to the two central probe agencies, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours were extended to the licence holders.
Former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia is also an accused in the two cases. AAP has blamed the BJP for misusing central agencies to threaten opposition parties.
“The way in which the liquor mafia was given entry in Delhi, the way zones were created and then sold as per their whims and fancies. The way the AAP government in Delhi has functioned, I feel that no government in Delhi’s history has been more corrupt, and no one else would ever be,” said Agarwal.
When asked how the UP excise department is different from that of Delhi, Agarwal said, ‘In Delhi, zones were created, which were allotted to their special persons. We have put a restriction that one person cannot get more than two (liquor) shops (in the entire state).”
Agarwal said that in UP, the excise policy is pro-industry and provides a level-playing field to everyone.
“The excise policy of UP is pro-industry, and this could be gauged from the fact that six years ago, there were 20 distilleries in the state which has risen to nearly 100 distilleries now.”
Earlier, the policies of the state government were not transparent, as the policies were made so that some liquor mafia were benefited, he said.
Agarwal said that the excise department did not have a good reputation under governments of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
“The (current) UP government does not favour any particular person, and provides level-playing field to everyone. Anyone who wants to come and do business in the state is most welcome,” he said.
“In 2017, when the BJP government was formed, the state used to get Rs 14,000 crore as revenue from the excise department. Today, the same revenue has increased to Rs 42,000 crores. In the current financial year, our target is to take the figure to Rs 50,000-crore mark.”
“Today, there are 98 distilleries in UP, where industrial and potable alcohol is being made. Today, UP produces the highest amount of ethanol in the country. Apart from this, enforcement activities are also going on, especially wherever there is a pilferage.”
The excise department gives the highest revenue to the state if one removes GST and VAT, Agarwal said.
“We are moving with a 10-12 per cent growth rate. Our target is to take it to 18-19 per cent year-on-year basis. We plan to make our revenue reach Rs 80,000 crore-mark by 2027,” he said.
The excise minister also said that there have been no deaths due to spurious liquor in the state in the second term of Chief Minister Adityanath.
“There have been some unfortunate incidents in the past, like the one in Aligarh (36 people died in the 2021 hooch tragedy).”
Since the beginning of the second term of CM Adityanath, “not a single death has taken place in UP over consumption of spurious liquor. This is a big achievement of the department,” Agarwal said.
He added that around 7-8 special campaigns against illegal liquor are going on, apart from normal enforcement action.
Agarwal also said that deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor happen when the liquor is made at the local level by mixing jaggery with urea. If methyl alcohol is added, then the liquor becomes poisonous, he said.
“In UP, country liquor is made in the distilleries and they are safe,” he said.
The excise minister said that while the government does not have any per capita consumption statistics, the department is targeting an annual 8-10 per cent growth rate.
“In a month, one crore cases (1 case equals 48 bottles, each of 200 ml) of country liquor are being sold in UP. Of our department’s total revenue, country liquor’s share is 44 per cent,” he said.
(Published 12 November 2023, 06:28 IST)