77 Punjab villages want liquor vends to go

Patiala, Punjab: For a state given to liquor like fish in water, this may sound as a dry fact: 77 panchayats in Punjab want liquor shops in their villages shut or relocated. Under the Panchayati Raj Act, a village body has to pass a resolution and inform the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department (PETD) from April 1 to September 30 asking for restricting the sale of alcohol.

Senior PETD officials acknowledged that 77 applications had been received from villages in the state. A final decision to either shift these vends or shut them altogether will be taken by April 1.

According to official records available with the Excise Department, out of the 77 such villages, 54 are from Sangrur, 10 from Patiala, three each from Moga and Barnala, two from Mansa, one each from Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Ropar and Hoshiarpur.

“Two hearings have already been held. We’ll soon take a final call on the fate of these shops,” said Neelam Choudhary, Joint Excise and Tax Commissioner, Patiala. In the last financial year, authorities had closed liquor shops in 32 villages and shifted 10 outside the villages after receiving 72 resolutions.

“After the liquor vends are shut, an Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO) verifies the police record of a village to ensure that no illegal liquor is sold in the area,” said a senior officer.

Some NGOs and villages allege that the Excise Department rejected their applications under pressure from politicians as a large part of the liquor trade is controlled and operated by either politicians or their supporters.

Last week, following a resolution passed by panchayats in 2009 to shut liquor shops as part of their fight against alcoholism, film star Aamir Khan held a special video conference with the residents of Changal village in Sangrur.

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