BJP MLAs bring in a pushcart on the Assembly premises in Ranchi on Wednesday in an attempt to poke fun at the Hemant Soren government. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Feb. 26: The Opposition has alleged that the Hemant Soren government was bending rules to award contracts to supply country liquor to a company owned by family members of controversial UP liquor baron, the late Ponty Chaddha.
Raising the matter during a call attention motion today, JVM legislators Nirbhay Sahabadi and Satyendra Nath Tiwari alleged that the government introduced stringent conditions in the tender documents to put local entrepreneurs at a disadvantage while favouring Wave Inc, a company that has a bottling plant in Punjab.
“It has been done to benefit Chaddha and company as the government is set to float tenders for liquor supply for fiscal years 1 April, 2014 to March 31, 2017. Recommendations of a previous committee were scrapped and a new committee was formed to frame conditions in such a manner that local the liquor industry could not participate,” Sahabadi alleged.
The JVM was supported by the BJP. “Since the government is not transparent about its intention, we sense a foul play. In sand mining, too, the government had twisted rules to benefit business houses in Mumbai,” BJP legislator Raghubar Das said.
In his reply, minister of excise and prohibition Jay Prakash Bhai Patel said: “I will take care of the interest of the state as well as revenue.”
The Opposition wasn’t happy with his terse response and soon there was pandemonium. JVM legislature party leader Pradeep Yadav said the minister’s reply was subject to several interpretations. He demanded a categorical statement from the government.
Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta, to pacify members and bring the House to order, ended up angering the Opposition when he seemed to suggest that it was the government’s business to give brief replies.
Soon after the House had to be adjourned after the Opposition and Treasury benches began a verbal duel.
At the centre of the dispute over the issue of country liquor are a set of conditions laid down by a new committee formed by the government.
It recommended that Jharkhand be treated as single zone instead of the existing five for awarding rights to sell country liquor. Also, it set various criteria for interested companies. Bidders:
nshould have own distilleries and experience in bottling country made liquor,
nmust have bagged government contracts to supply liquor in at least two states,
nmust have minimum capacity to produce and sell two crore litres per year in the last two years.
The Opposition claimed that such stringent conditions would automatically disqualify companies from Jharkhand, which has only one bottling plant, that of Ankur Biochem Pvt. Ltd, established last year.
But the secretary and excise commissioner R.P. Sinha said that committee’s recommendations were not final and was subject to approval.