In yet another expose, the excise department confiscated liquor-filled trucks on a National Highway in Madhya Pradesh. The liquor crates worth over Rs. 90 lakh were found to be purchased from Haryana. Liquor smuggling has been the longest standing problem in and around the state. Most of the news, reporting confiscation of liquor trucks, show purchase receipt of Haryana. Why is there no permanent solution to this over-a-decade long problem?
According to reports, the state is among the cheapest liquor selling states in the country. For instance, if a popular brand like Black Label is priced at Rs. 3,600 in Delhi, the same costs only Rs. 2,400 in the state. Then again, the wholesale prices are far lower. The wide gap in the prices is due to the different government’s policies. In Delhi, the government charges higher tax on liquor, and regulate the prices, whereas in Haryana, the government only auctions liquor licences and vendors are free to fix their own liquor rates.
Owing to the price difference, there is a high demand for Haryana liquor across the country. Many of the highways in the state are lined up with numerous liquor shops that are thriving commercially. For over a decade, police and the excise department have been stopping trucks and seizing liquor crates worth a lot of money and convicting the truck drivers. In addition, drunken driving on highways is another problem that has increased in the past decade. Despite knowing that liquor selling alongside highways encourages drunken driving, and low cost liquor in the state promotes smuggling, the excise department, police, and government do not take any major step in curtailing this menace.
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court urged the states to ban liquor selling on highways. The Haryana government not only not implemented the judgment, but also defied it and gave out licences and land for new liquor shops alongside a national highway. Along with this, the government asked for a stay on the judgment of banning the liquor shops as it had “serious financial implications”. This clearly shows that the government is more interested in saving their own financial interests than that of people who are in danger of encountering highway accidents.
Apart from these, the smuggling of liquor in the state also benefits the highway police and some excise department personnel. According to reports, it was found that buying liquor from Haryana and selling to other states was still profitable, even after adding travelling costs and paying the highway police and excise officials for a safe passage. It is no wonder that liquor smuggling is still prevalent and nothing is being done about it.
The liquor smuggling is adversely affecting the innocent people of the state. Owing to easy liquor availability, many people take up drinking and create nuisance on roads and nearby neighborhoods, affecting those living in the area. In addition, it was found that people running the illegal liquor operation use weapons when caught, taking lives of the honest officers.
In order to stop such liquor smuggling, the government will need to bring the prices at par with that of the rest of the country. Implementing the Supreme Court’s judgment is also critical in reducing drunken driving incidents on the roads of Haryana.