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Hic! Hic! Hiccup! Eye on liquor sale

- Excise officers keep tabs to avoid violation of model code of conduct

The Election Commission of India (ECI) scanner on liquor shops could not have come at a worse time than the Holi season.

Retail liquor shops in the city usually enjoy brisk business during festivals like Holi, Dussehra, Diwali and others but a close watch is being kept on the kiosks these days to ensure election model code of conduct is not violated.

As per the ECI directives, the excise department has begun monitoring daily sale and stock position of liquor shops across the state. The figures would be compared with those of the previous months. Instructions have also been issued to the shop owners to maintain record of their open and closing stock daily. The records are also being sent to the ECI.

Any liquor shop found with sudden rise in sale records during the ongoing poll period may risk cancellation of its licence. Senior government officials claimed that this is probably the first time that such a directive has been issued for across-the-country implementation.

“If any shop or retailer found selling more than 30 per cent of the liquor compared to the last month or year, then it would be marked as a sensitive shop. If detailed probe substantiates that the shop has violated the poll-time liquor sale norms, then immediate action would be initiated against it,” said Sandeep Poundrik, secretary, registration, excise and prohibition department.

A close watch would also be kept on the sale of liquor during Holi. A senior official in the state electoral office said shops registering a growth of 30 per cent or more in daily sale during the festival would face scrutiny. Their licences would be cancelled if the illegal sale is confirmed. “Sensitive liquor shops in and around the slums and away from main roads would also be under the surveillance,” he added.

“Shops with stocks exceeding their last year’s level by 50 per cent on March 1 are also under the watch of the commission,” the officer said.

The retailers have also been instructed not to sell liquor in bulk. As the elections would be held in Patna on April 17, the shops will remain closed from 5pm on April 15 till April 18.

Senior officials of the excise department, however, kept mum on implementation of the norms related to sale of liquor during poll period under the surveillance of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at the shops.

Vigil on fest meet

Holi Milan programmes during the festival of colours will also be under the ECI scanner. The state electoral office has already issued directives to the authorities concerned to keep a tab on Holi Milan programmes organised by political parties in the run-up to the general elections.

“The candidates of the political parties or those contesting as Independents may try to woo voters by offering liquors free of cost under the garb of Holi Milan,” a senior officer at the state electoral office said.