Hyderabad, June 8 (IANS) At a time when a severe financial crunch has forced it to go slow on many welfare schemes, the Andhra Pradesh government has earned a whopping Rs.6,904 crore from the auction of liquor shops.
The earnings are said to be the highest by any state through sale of liquor shops.
The excise department earned Rs.6,904 crore from the auction of 6,505 out of 6,595 liquor shops. The revenues may cross Rs.7,000 crore as remaining 91 shops are yet to be auctioned.
Tenders for majority of the shops for next two years were opened Monday. The remaining shops will be sold in couple of days.
Excise Commissioner Hiralal Samaria told reporters the revenues were 114 percent more than waht was earned in 2008. The department was expecting Rs.4,500 crore this year.
The average bid amount for each shop auctioned so far was over Rs.1 crore. Shops in some districts were sold for whopping Rs.5 crore. A shop at Nadikudi village of Dachepalli mandal in Guntur district was bid for Rs.5.21 crore while another shop in the same mandal was sold for Rs.4.92 crore.
Creating a record of sorts, the government earned Rs.48.6 crore from the sale of tenders forms alone. About 48,600 bids were received for 6,596 shops which was 125 per cent in excess of the demand in 2008.
Unlike in the past when shops in and around Hyderabad were auctioned for over Rs.5 crore, there were few takers this time. Slowdown in real estate market and the Information Technology sector is cited as the main reason for the relatively poor response in and around the state capital.
Though slowdown in real estate has hit hard the state’s revenues, the excise department has come to the rescue. Officials, however, said the revenues from liquor constitute only eight percent of the total revenues.
The fall in revenues over the last two years has already raised question mark on continuation of various welfare schemes launched by former Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
In a state which witnessed total prohibition in mid-1990s following a massive movement by women, the sale of liquor shops was not without protests.
The Lok Satta Party alleged that the government was encouraging the consumption of alcohol through auction of liquor shops. Party president Jayaprakash Narayan said liquor dealers promote unauthorised outlets or ‘belt shops’ to make the sales required to realise the license fee.
Women’s groups also criticized the government for promoting consumption of liquor and demanded re-imposition of prohibition.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh High Court Tuesday issued notices to the central and state governments on a public interest litigation over sale of liquor shops.
Narayana, a resident of Nizamabad district, filed a petition in the court, demanding prohibition. The petitioner alleged that the government was promoting sale of liquor, badly affecting public health.