NEW DELHI: The city is imbibing more, and better too. Even as an upbeat excise department is raking in the cash, it will not let go of the opportunity to add to its kitty with vigilant action on Diwali eve. After all, it is on this festive day that liquor sales customarily touch an annual high in the capital, with whiskey the hot favourite, but beer and wine not lagging too far behind.

In the fortnight to Diwali, with a strict watch on parties, banquets and farmhouse events, accompanied by proactive check on smuggling across the Haryana borders, the excise department logged a collection that is Rs 25 crore higher that what was garnered in the fortnight before Diwali last year. This is almost the icing on the cake because the department has already aggregated Rs 2,454 crore in excise collection on liquor since April 1 this year, an increase of 32% over the same period last year. Not surprisingly, the tax collectors hope to surmount the annual target of Rs 4,000 crore and perhaps even touch the Rs 4,700-crore mark by the time the financial year closes on March 31 next year.

Officials say that 90% of the collected amount has come from the sale of costlier whiskey brands in the Indian Manufactured Foreign Liquor category. After conditions for selling liquor were made more stringent this year, the presence of lower-priced varieties was almost non-existent on the shop shelves. Wine may not yet be a regular item on the drinker’s list, yet revenue generation from wine has nevertheless risen 15% this year. Beer, considered mostly a summer favourite, did not sell well in May and June, but picked up significantly thereafter. Indeed, in terms of tax on beer, the excise department earned more this year than the previous year.

The Delhiites’ higher capacity, however, is not the only factor behind the big revenue increases. The amended policy has made excise collection more efficient by eliminating the bottlenecks and red tape. There has been a crackdown on illegal sales, with FIRs being registered against violators. The stepping up of intelligence on the Haryana borders has also brought down leakages. People have also moved up to costlier brands due to the new policy curbing the number of operators selling low-end liquor brands. Together, these have left the excise department saying, “Cheers!”

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Source: TOI-Delhi