Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has accused the Excise Department in Punjab of a Rs 200-crore liquor scam and demanded a CBI probe into the fraud. Senior SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithja accused Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Finance Minister Harpal Cheema of lying about a 41% increase in excise revenue and stated that the increase was only 10.26%.
Majithia exposed the fraud by releasing documents approved by the Cabinet, including a report of a group of ministers. He said the note revealed that the transfer of rebate benefit from manufacturer to retailer via L-1 was not given to the retailer, and L-1 holders were misusing their monopolistic position to dictate terms to retailers.
Committee report and cover-up exercise
Majithia asserted that the committee report and the group of ministers' report were cover-up exercises. After collecting Rs 28 crore from L-1 holders last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has increased projected deposits to Rs 150 crore for this year. The crackdown in Delhi has led to the arrest of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the architect of the Punjab excise policy.
The AAP government realized that there should be a rationale while deciding the margin of L-1 holders backed by sound economic principles. Majithia alleged that all this was being done to evade cases and arrests, and the AAP government and its officials could not escape responsibility for the loot of the state exchequer last year.
Liquor contractors under investigation
Majithia disclosed that two of the main liquor contractors in Punjab, Aman Dhall and Tushar Chopra, were already under investigation for excise theft in Delhi, with Dhall behind bars. He held the Chief Minister directly responsible for this state of affairs, saying the CM had followed the dictate of the AAP high command and reduced the number of L-1 licensees from 74 to seven. This not only created a monopoly, but the increase in profit from 5% to 10% had resulted in huge profits for L-1 holders who did not give anything in return to the state. He alleged that kickbacks were paid to AAP functionaries to the detriment of the state.
Demand for CBI probe
SAD has demanded a CBI probe into the fraud and the arrest of all guilty parties on the same pattern as followed in Delhi. Majithia said that the loot was at least around Rs 200 crore and should be thoroughly investigated. The Excise Department in Punjab has been accused of scams before, and it is time for the authorities to investigate and hold those responsible accountable.
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