New J&K Excise Policy rendering people jobless

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Baljeet Singh

JAMMU: The Lt Governor Manoj Sinha administration has adopted a new excise policy. It allotted liquor vends through an e-auction for the year 2021-22. The new policy didn’t take into consideration the fact that many liquor licenses had already been renewed up to 2023, thus adversely impacting the life of those engaged in this legal trade.
The new excise policy, instead of enhancing employment opportunities in the UT of J&K, especially Jammu province, where the unemployment problem was already acute, has rendered many persons jobless.
According to one estimate, it has rendered almost “6000 persons engaged by the liquor vends owners jobless” and made the life of their families consisting of “30,000 persons” a veritable hell on earth.
All this happened at a time when the life of the people, especially the poor, has already become very difficult owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has not only been swallowing the patients, but also has disrupted completely all sorts of economic and commercial activities. It was the time to be more compassionate but it was not to be. The result is that those who have been rendered jobless by the new excise policy are feeling alienated from what they call the “insensitive regime”.
No wonder then that they are saying that what the J&K Administration has done is not consistent with what the PM, the HM and who not in the BJP had repeatedly given the people of Jammu region to understand that the post-August 2019 regime would do justice to them and redress their grievances, including their grievance that they never got fair share in the job sector and other spheres. It needs to be noted that the unemployment rate in Kashmir is just about 30%, as against the unemployment rate of nearly 70% in Jammu region.
It’s not that the new excise policy has only snatched jobs from 6000 persons and added to the woes of their family members. It has also promoted mafia from Punjab and UP.
To oblige the liquor mafia of Punjab and UP, the UT government is putting all efforts to convert Jammu from the City of Temples to City of Wine Shops.
No doubt the number of shops have been kept same but there is no bar on the opening of new wine shops near any religious places. No doubt there had been some wine shops near religious places in the past but they were either opened before the enactment of excise laws or new religious places came up at many places near the already existing wine shops. However, later specific distances of 500 yards or 200 yards or 100 yards were made compulsory for the wine shop to be away from religious and educational places. Now, to oblige liquor mafia, this clause has been kept in abeyance and at many places no objection certificates by the district administration (DC and SSP) are being issued even without considering a distance of 50 yards.
People feel that the UT people have been rendered unemployed tactfully despite their licenses renewed upto 2023. Now opening of new wine shops is also a ploy of the administration to oblige liquor mafia.
The new liquor policy had said that only the J&K domiciles would be entitled to obtain liquor vends through e-auction, but what has actually happened is to the contrary.
It’s a talk of the town that “more than 50% of the liquor trade has been captured by mighty, influential and rich people from Punjab and UP”.
That certain people from outside J&K opened their offices in Sainik Colony, Jammu, months before auction to manage the powers-that-be in the Lt Governor administration only serves to demonstrate that the intentions behind the new excise policy were not fair.
The Narendra Modi Government is putting in all efforts to defeat the deadly virus and ease the living of the people across the nation through several welfare measures, including distribution of ration free of cost. It is working overtime to come out of the grave crisis and ameliorate the economic life of the common citizenry.
The J&K administration also needs to follow the same line and review its excise policy which has all the potential of jeopardizing the genuine interests of the people covered under the new excise policy.