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Legalise country liquor: Opposition

Shillong, June 9: The Opposition in Meghalaya Assembly today suggested that country liquor be legalised to increase revenue.

Initiating a discussion on the second day of the reassembled budget session, Opposition leader Donkupar Roy, while suggesting a hike in tax and non-tax revenue, said the government could impose more taxes on tobacco and liquor.

“I also subscribe to the view that ka kyiad (country liquor) should be legalised as its consumption is quite high, more than double compared to (India-made) foreign liquor. Quality control on countrymade alcohol is also required,” Roy said.

Saying that the government could earn a lot of revenue from country liquor, the former chief minister said substantial money was going outside the state with sale of India-made foreign liquor.

Legalising country alcohol has been a subject of debate for several years now.

In his budget speech in March, chief minister Mukul Sangma had said the government had increased the rates for tobacco and tobacco-related products to 20 per cent, revise the export fee on forest products and was examining a proposal for upward revision of rates on sand and stone.

He had said the government expected to earn an additional revenue of around Rs 18 crore from the recommendations of the second interim report of the task force on resource mobilisation.

On tax and non-tax revenue, Sangma had said the revenue collected during 2012-13 was Rs 631.12 crore. The anticipated revenue for 2013-14 was Rs 702 crore and the estimated revenue from excise was Rs 159 crore.

Making other submissions, Roy suggested that students from below poverty line families be given free education. He said a residential school needed to be established in Shillong to take care of students from the rural areas who could not afford expensive schools and colleges.

He also suggested that the government improve the quality of healthcare services, especially in the rural areas.

To reduce the fiscal deficit and consolidate the state’s finances, Roy said avoidable expenditure should be evaded.

Taking part in the discussion, Hill State People’s Democratic Party legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, who is also the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council chief, said the government should immediately release all dues to the three councils in the state.

Touching on the private universities operating in Meghalaya, he questioned whether the government could escape from responsibility on the CMJ University fiasco, which was recently dissolved.

“Have we ever imagined the plight of the students who have been duped by this university? Martin Luther Christian University is another private university, which is now under the CBI scanner. There is also a complaint on the functioning of the University of Technology and Management. If necessary steps are not taken, these universities will face the same fate as CMJ University,” Basaiawmoit said.

To avoid wasteful expenditure, he suggested that the government do away with sponsorships to candidates if it cannot accommodate them while providing jobs.

National People’s Party legislator James P.K. Sangma said the budget speech was only a “prediction” of a “lacklustre performance” of the government in the current financial year.