After kickbacks row, AP to review excise policy

The Andhra Pradesh government has started an exercise to review its Excise Policy after the liquor syndicate-politicians-officials nexus left the entire system shaken.

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh government has
started an exercise to review its Excise Policy after the
liquor syndicate-politicians-officials nexus left the entire
system shaken.

State Excise Minister Mopidevi Venkata Ramana, who
escaped being axed despite getting caught in the centre of the
controversy, admitted that the
existing excise policy was
flawed and needed revision.

"The current system of auction (of liquor shops) is
flawed. It needs to be revised...we are on the job," Mopidevi
told newsmen here today.

A team of senior Excise Department officials visited
Tamil Nadu recently to study the excise policy in vogue there.
The team would visit Kerala and Karantaka next for a similar
study based on which the new AP policy would be drafted.

"The next round of auctions is due in June. So we should
have a new policy in place before that," the Minister added.

"Syndicates are neither new nor restricted to liquor trade
alone. Syndicates exist in sand and other businesses as well,"
Mopidevi pointed out, in reply to a question, adding that
several members of the liquor syndicate besides officials and
men of the Excise Department were arrested by the state
anti-corruption bureau for indulging in corrupt practices.

The liquor syndicates issue has been rocking Andhra
Pradesh with the ACB bringing to light the involvement of
Excise officials, politicians, liquor traders and even some
lower rung journalists across the state. It is estimated that
a staggering sum of over Rs 5,000 crore changes hands every
year as the liquor traders flout all rules and sell the brands
at exorbitant rates.

State Congress President and Transport Minister Botsa
Satyanarayana admitted his family members owned 27 per cent
stake each in 31 liquor shops but denied being part of the
liquor syndicate.

The ACB investigations revealed that not only the
ruling Congress leaders but also many legislators and leaders
from other parties, including main opposition Telugu Desam,
were recipients of bribes from the liquor syndicates every

At a high-level review meeting with Excise
Commissioner Sameer Sharma and other senior officials here
today, the Minister directed the department to step up the
enforcement drive to ensure liquor was sold only at the
maximum retail price fixed.

Referring to allegation that he received a bribe of Rs
10 lakh from a particular liquor syndicate member of Khammam
district, Mopidevi noted that every minister who held the
Excise portfolio faced one allegation or the other. "Such
allegations are not new..all my predecessors also faced many
allegations," he added.

Mopidevi refused to quit his post after the ACB
presented to court a confessional statement of a liquor
syndicate member Nunna Venkata Ramana that he paid Rs 10 lakh
to the Minister as part of a "regular process."

Meanwhile, the Minister was caught on the defensive on
another ground after the Telugu Desam Party alleged that his
son secured license for selling a particular brand of beer in
the state.

Admitting that he got a firm registered "for doing
business" in June last year, the Minister, however, claimed he
asked his son to withdraw from the proposal of entering into
liquor business.

"Since I am the Excise Minister, I wanted my son not
to get into liquor business as it doesn’t look good. We, in
fact, got the license of our business firm revoked last year
itself. Hence, the question of misusing my official position
does not arise," Mopidevi said.


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