Is Andhra Pradesh Following Telangana To Become An Alcoholic Pradesh?

Hyderabad, May 15 (Maxim News): Is Andhra Pradesh too following Telangana to become the Alcoholic Pradesh? Yes, it seems that the ruling YSRCP Chief and Chief Minister of AP Jagan Mohan Reddy is following the same steps as it is being in Telangana ignoring the promise given to the women voters to “prohibit alcohol in a phased manner in the state.

It may be recalled that the YSRCP manifesto for the last election, ‘Navaratnalu,’ said that many families in the state were financially ruined due to alcohol consumption. Many were suffering from various related ailments and not able to get treatment due to their financial constraints. In an advertisement on 30 May 2019, on the day he took oath as the Chief Minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy reiterated his government’s commitment to the gradual phase out of liquor in the state, after which there has been no progress on the matter – save for political rehabilitation of Vallamreddy Lakshman Reddy as the chairman of the Liquor Prohibition Campaign Committee on 24 October 2019. The YSRCP government took a complete “U” turn to increase the consumption of liquor, instead, in the state, grossly disappointing those who voted for him on this account.

In the past four years, the liquor policy was carried out from a business perspective only. The government began to operate its own liquor shops through the new excise policy in 2019-20 instead of controlling it. In 2021-22, the government dishonored its promise to cut down on the number of government-run liquor shops. In 2022-23, the government planned to transfer VAT revenue from liquor consumption to the State Beverages Corporation and planned to raise loans of Rs 25,000 crore to be repaid in 20 years. Thus, it undid its promise of total liquor ban in a period of 5 years by 2024. The plan for phased withdrawal of liquor is replaced by an increase in the sale of liquor to raise and government’s revenue.

Jagan Mohan Reddy gets the credit of making the state the low-quality liquor production hub in the country with unidentified liquor brands not found anywhere in the country. Can we imagine how serious the effect of low-quality liquor will be on the health of people? It is a well-known fact that the liquor manufacturing companies in the state are in the hands of the ruling party family members and their cronies and associates. These unheard-of inferior brands of liquor manufactured by these people are being sold at the highest prices in the country in the state government-run shops.

When Jagan Mohan Reddy announced phased liquor ban, people thought he would start de-addiction centres to control consumption in the state, but now the government is brazenly running liquor shops near schools and temples. It has even flouted the rule that there should be no liquor shops adjacent to the national and R&B highways as there is a possibility of drunk driving. The government is solely interested in increasing the tax collections by increasing the sale of alcohol despite the Supreme Court rulings.

It should be asked why the culprits behind the deaths of 25 people at Jangareddy Gudem due to consumption of illicit arrack have not been booked so far. Have the State government authorities tried to portray these as natural deaths? Also, the state government has miserably failed to control the illegitimate sale of liquor as it is itself engaged in the liquor business. As government-run liquor shops in the state sell substandard liquor, premium brands of liquor brought from bordering states with the support of the ruling YSRCP leaders have become a source of income for those doing business in Andhra Pradesh for four years. It means, the excise policy of the state government is flawed. So many crimes have taken place in the state under the influence of alcohol. On the other side, people travelling in the vehicles entering the state are being frisked and harassed at the police checkposts on the borders of the state.

When the YSRCP manifesto called for a phased ban on Liquor, when the Liquor Prohibition Committee had been appointed after coming to power, the actual Excise and VAT revenue from liquor in the state should decrease gradually every year between 2019-20 to 2022-23. On the contrary, the growth of income on alcohol has become so steep every year that it will touch the sky in the future; but today, the pockets of alcohol consumers are not only being drained, but it is also noteworthy that their health is being severely affected. If we analyse the alcohol revenue statistics for the last four years, the amount transferred to the Beverage Corporation by reducing the VAT percentage on alcohol for higher loans from the existing VAT with special GO, Excise duty and VAT together, the total revenue earned by the state government in the form of taxes on alcohol is as follows: Rs 17,300 crore for 2019-20, Rs 21,500 crore for 2020-21, Rs 26,700 crore for 2021-22 and Rs 30,600 crore for 2022-23. Jagan Mohan Reddy has brought the state government to a serious predicament by deviating from the promise of liquor prohibition and running the state government with the growth of liquor income alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has encouraged digital payments related to daily cash transactions post Corona uncertainty. Many payments related to the central and state governments are also transferring funds to the beneficiaries’ accounts directly through cash transfer to avoid the leakage in the payments. Today, India has become the number one country with the highest number of digital transactions in the world. In the meantime, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy stated that they would promote digital payments. But unfortunately, the government-run liquor shops in the state have restricted the cashless payments and encouraged non-digital cash transactions. The reason for this is that the companies manufacturing liquor are owned by the ruling party members. Here the question is what percentage this would amount to in the total transactions, which should go to the Beverage Corporation by way of VAT and excise. In whose pockets are thousands of crores being diverted into, one wonders.

After coming to power, the promise of prohibition of liquor was thrown to the wind. Jagan Reddy’s has become a forgetful government that has gone out of control. The time has come for the women to speak their minds to the government on the promise of total prohibition. There is no state in the country where the state government runs solely on liquor revenue. According to Jagan’s promise, if we really want to see Andhra Pradesh as a middle liberating state, then the alcohol income would not have increased every year. As 20-year loans were taken by the Beverage Corporation, it can be assumed that Jagan Reddy has decided that there will be no prohibition of alcohol in the next 20 years.

In the face of increasing voices that alcohol corruption is more serious in Andhra Pradesh than the Delhi excise scam, it cannot be ruled out that soon central investigation agencies will investigate the issue. (Maxim News)

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