Mumbai: Is liquor an essential commodity? the Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the state government, pulling it up for its policy to permit liquor production from foodgrain.
A division bench of Justice J.N. Patel and Justice B. Gavai asked the government whether liquor and wines were an essential commodity or food for the people, the petitioner`s lawyer Uday Varunjkar said.
The judges questioned the subsidy grant of Rs.50 crore per liquor factory and asked the state government if it had funds for the purpose, Varunjkar said.
Allowing time to the government to file its replies, the judges have posted the matter for further hearing after a month.
The petition was filed last month by Bhimshakti Vichar Manch president Chetan Kamble, who sought a stay on the government`s liquor policy.
Kamble told IANS that as per the official records, the liquor-from-foodgrains policy, announced in June 2007 and closed in August 2009, attracted 35 applicants, mostly top politicians of the state or their relations.
The government also announced a subsidy of up to Rs. 50 crore per factory, depending on its brewing capacity. The liquor would be produced from jowar, bajra and maize.
Traditionally, the main ingredient was molasses - a byproduct of sugar - which was used to produce liquor in the state.
However, since molasses have been diverted to make ethanol, which is required to be mixed with petrol to make vehicles fuel efficient, the government hit upon the idea to permit liquor from foodgrain.
As per current indications, the 35 factories would require a total of 70 lakh tonnes of foodgrain to produce around 15 lakh tonnes of liquor from it.
Kamble said as per official records, the foodgrain output of the state has been steadily declining over the past couple of years.
"Instead of giving food to the poor people of the state, the government is taking away the food and serving liquor to the masses," said Kamble.