Revenue from country-liquor has gone down by 90 per cent in the state, indicating a huge loss of appetite for the elixir of life.
It might, however, be due to a huge appetite for money among officials, asserts the following story.
“Is it true that the state has suffered huge loss of excise revenue from sale of country liquor in the state?” The seemingly innocuous question was asked by an MLA in the Assembly. And the reply was equally innocuous. “No such complaint has been received from any quarter,” the government informed the House.
There the matter rested till a trainee journalist with a newspaper applied for information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The official information, released reluctantly, indicated that the state earned around Rs 16 crore as excise tax from the sale of country liquor in the state during 2001-02. But at the end of March 2006, the annual revenue had come down to Rs 1.65 crore.
A year after the NDA government’s reply in the Assembly, the House was again rocked by the issue, with Congress leader Pradeep Balmuchu accusing an unholy nexus between government officials and liquor barons for the huge loss to the exchequer.
Balmuchu had accused the excise minister of misleading the House, prompting chief minister Madhu Koda to intervene and promise modifications in the excise policy.
The state government, Balmuchu had said, dropped the traditional policy and handed over the licence to a syndicate of traders from Chhattisgarh and New Delhi. It created a monopoly of outsiders, which drove out the local traders, the Congress leader had alleged.
The chief minister is yet to fulfil his promise, Balmuchu said here today.
This and many other information tumbled out of the government’s closet because of the application of the RTI Act and they have been compiled in a book by Arvind Kejriwal and Vishnu Rajgarhia.
Strangely, even PSUs have been revealed to be as scheming and as corrupt as the state government.
Ranchi-based businessman Sandeep Anand thanks the RTI Act for enabling him to recover Rs 9 lakh for the sprinkler system he had supplied to the Central Coalfields Ltd.
CCL had held back the payment complaining the system had malfunctioned. The businessman made use of the RTI Act to get access to documents and was shocked at the finding. Documents revealed that CCL had informed Coal India Ltd as well as the World Bank that the sprinkler system was working well.
Based on the documents, Anand won his case and recovered his dues.
What is more, Anand also stumbled upon the fact that a section of CCL officials had planned to lodge a fake FIR against him, holding him responsible for a file missing from the CCL office. He promptly served a defamation notice on the CCL, which, predictably, the PSU ignored.
The RTI Act has also come in handy to expose other irregularities in the system.
The state government, for example, bungled by registering as many as 160 NGOs without recording their permanent addresses, as required under the law.
Possibly fresh applications under RTI Act need to be filed to find out the action, if any, taken by the government and the CCL against the culprits.The Telegraph - Calcutta : Jamshedpur