As the Manipur government has taken a decision to partially lift prohibition in the state, a question still haunts the state Excise department whether it would be able to achieve the projected annual revenue target of Rs 600 crore when the relaxation in the prohibition becomes operational.
The Excise department has long been plagued with inadequate manpower and support mechanism besides infrastructure. Such drawbacks have been one of the main causes of failure in proper implementation of Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991.
Prohibition was enforced in the state by the then RK Ranbir Singh-led Manipur People’s Party (MPP) government on April 1, 1991, following a total ban by the outlawed organisation Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).
The total number of sanctioned posts in the Excise department is 706 posts. But the present staff strength in the state department is only 125, including ministerial staff.
It may be mentioned that the department has only five functional vehicles, while another two are undergoing repair works.
There are 39 excise stations which are divided into three different circles - Imphal circle, Thoubal circle and Bishnupur circle.
Speaking to the Imphal Free Press (IFP) Deputy Superintendent of Excise, Khumanjao Remmei said that lack of adequate staff strength and operational vehicles have always been an issue for the department in meeting monthly and yearly targets of revenue besides proper implementation of prohibition in the state.
However, despite the lack of manpower and resources, the state excise department has been collecting a huge amount of revenue, the Excise official claimed.
The department would be able to collect more revenue from liquor production and sale if the number of staff is increased, he further said.
During the period from April to September 2022, a total of 1,140 cases were registered and a total revenue sum of Rs 7,88,01,123 was collected, i.e., Rs 23,18,950 as compound fee and Rs 7,64,82,173 from excise military and licence, the official said.
Among the total cases of 1,140 registered at the department, 764 cases were registered at Imphal circle which collected a total revenue of Rs 16,93,900 as compound fee, he added.
Remmei said that the state excise department has been collecting a huge amount of revenue as compound fee from black marketers. Within a six-month period from April to September this year, a sum of Rs 16,93,900 was collected from the black market.
In the draft Manipur Liquor Regulation Policy which was issued recently by the state government, it is mentioned that a strong enforcement mechanism will be placed if the state cabinet decision on partial lifting of prohibition is implemented.
Meanwhile, various local bodies in the valley area, in support of Nupi Samaj and the Coalition Against Drug and Alcohol (CADA), have been organising a series of protests in Imphal. They have been demanding the revocation of the state cabinet decision and to produce a white paper regarding it.
The state government had issued a draft of the Manipur Liquor Regulation Policy and another draft on general public information to be followed if the policy is implemented. Chief Minister N Biren Singh had also stated earlier that the state government was firm on its stand about its decision and that it will not bow down under any pressure.
Meanwhile, rejecting the draft regulation policy, CADA said it will not meet with the government until it produces a white paper, but will instead support any form of agitation initiated by the Nupi Samaj.
Addressing the media at its office located at Pureiromba Khongnangkhong, Imphal East, secretary general of CADA, Geetchandra Mangang said that the draft copy of ‘Manipur Liquor Regulation Policy’ will not be considered as white paper that CADA has been demanding from the government.
He said a white paper should include pros and cons on legalisation of liquor and should elaborate the queries made by the public including how the government is going to control the situation after liquor legalisation is implemented.