Bengal liquor body wants repeal of state-run trading

Kolkata, Jan 18 (IANS) Pleading that it was reeling under demonetisation, the West Bengal liquor body on Wednesday urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to repeal her government’s decision to foray into wholesale marketing of alcoholic beverages as the move will render “17,000 people jobless”.

The West Bengal Foreign Liquor Manufacturers Wholesalers and Bonders Association said two people had died in as many days after the Trinamool Congress-led government decided to set up a corporation to handle wholesale liquor trade. It apprehended more deaths.

The deceased were employees in the sector.

“They (employees) were under extreme stress since the last few days. One of them died of a heart attack and the other of a brain stroke,” an association spokesperson said here.

“We have written to the Chief Minister, the Finance Minister and the Principal Secretary concerned but they have not responded yet,” he said.

“We have 5,000 direct employees and 12,000 indirect staff. Assuming four dependents on each of them, we are talking of 70,000 people who will be affected by the decision. These 17,000 persons will be rendered jobless,” the association said.

The alcohol beverage industry in Bengal is highly regulated and has good infrastructure.

There are about 10 manufacturing units engaged in production of foreign liquor and about 102 licensed private distributors who supply to the retail. These distributors operate under the close supervision of the state Excise Directorate.

“Since demonetisation has already affected everybody, it is expected to hammer more into the poor who are fighting for livelihood. Add to this the cash crunch following demonetisation,” the association said.

An association member said demonetisation has impacted at the retail level.

“Because of currency shortage, there has been a 30 per cent dip at the retail level from November 8 to December 30. This had had an adverse effect on wholesalers as well,” he said.

Urging for a meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss the issue, the association members said they could suggest alternatives so that the West Bengal government could earn an additional Rs 100 crore without disturbing the current system.