Huge hike dampens Chandigarh drinkers' high

By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, April 19 : Liquor consumption in Chandigarh has been on the rise for years. But the Chandigarh administration's excise policy for 2013-14 will usher in a new "high" - pricewise!

The new policy announced this week substantially hikes the excise duty and retail prices of liquor brands. The licence fee for bars has been hiked, in some cases by 40 percent, which will mean that Bacchus lovers in the city will have to shell out more to remain in high spirits.

With Chandigarh's past records showing that over 200,000 bottles of various brands and forms of liquor were sold every day in the 114 sq km city area, the average consumption for each adult in the union territory came to over 11 bottles a month.

However, the figures were not indicative of the actual consumption capacity of the city. Given that duties and retail prices were much lower in the union territory compared to neighbouring states, especially Punjab and Haryana, a lot of liquor smuggling from Chandigarh to other states had been taking place over the years.

With the latest hike in liquor prices, however, rates here are likely to be at par with Punjab and Haryana.

The excise duty on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and beer has been hiked - ranging from Rs.30 for cheaper brands to Rs.247 per litre bottle for the ultra-deluxe brands.

The price of country liquor has been hiked by Rs.25. Beer has been hiked by Rs.26 per bottle - an almost 25 percent increase.

Wine, champagne and liqueur will also be costlier from May 1, when the new policy comes into effect.

"The minimum retail rates of IMFL have been enhanced by 10 to 25 percent and of beer by 16 to 30 percent. The licence fee for bar licences issued to restaurants, hotels and clubs has been enhanced by 40 percent approximately," an excise department spokesman said.

While the administration officials are happy with the latest hike, regular drinkers and those connected with the trade are irked.

"Over the years, the policy of the administration was such that it encouraged smuggling from Chandigarh. Now, with the hike, the entire burden has been passed on to the consumers in Chandigarh. This is not good," businessman Rakesh Kapoor told IANS.

Trade insiders feel that liquor consumption figures could take a hit with the costlier rates.

"The excise duty, retail prices, licence fee and other things have seen a substantial hike. This will considerably push up the rates for consumers," a leading beer manufacturer told IANS.

Information collated by an NGO three years ago showed that Chandigarh's adults were gulping down 136 bottles - or over 11 a month - annually . The city has since acquired the tag of being "in high spirits"!

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 19-04-2013)

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