By Our Reporter
SHILLONG: The State Government is all set to implement stricter drinking laws by enhancing the age limit of those who are permitted to buy liquor from the stores and also drink at the licensed bars.
Excise Minister Zenith A Sangma informed the House on Tuesday that the government would fix the minimum age limit of 25 years for anyone to buy liquor from stores and drink in the licensed bars in the State.
“I would issue a clear cut directive that all liquor stores should put up a board specifying that people aged 25 years and above are only allowed to buy liquor. The same directive would also be issued to the bars,” Sangma said.
The Minister also informed that the Excise department has collected revenue of Rs 385.5 crore in the past three years.
Replying to a cut motion moved by NPP legislator James K Sangma, the Minister said the department collected revenue of Rs 103.2 crore in 2010-2011, Rs 131.30 crore in 2011-2012 and Rs 150.88 crore in 2012-2013.
He also informed that the department has collected revenue of Rs 2.94 crore from sale of the holograms at the rate of 12 paisa per hologram in the last three years.
Sangma informed that the total number of liquor stores in the State is 629 with the maximum number of 138 in West Garo Hills, followed by 106 in East Khasi Hills, 19 (West Khasi Hills), 74 (Ri-Bhoi), 28 (West Jaintia), 50 (East Garo Hills), 57 (South Garo Hills), 7 (South West Khasi Hills), 2 (East Jaintia Hills), 15 (East Garo Hills) and 33 (South West Garo Hills).
He said that the number of licensed bars in the State is 41 with the maximum being in East Khasi Hills (25). Ri-Bhoi has 11 licensed bars, West Jaintia Hills and West Garo Hills have 2 each while South Garo Hills has 1.
The Minister, further, informed that adequate measures have been taken to combat the menace of illicit distilled liquor.
“Intensive raids and checking have been carried out in the interior parts of the State as well as the main towns and suburbs. Joint operations with media have been taking in prominent locations like Polo, Iewduh, Mawlonghat, Keating Road and others,” Sangma said.
Quoting figures, Sangma informed that from 2010 till December 2012, as many as 3054 raid were conducted by the department, with 4840 cases were registered and a total number of 4546 persons were arrested. A total amount of Rs 33.7 lakh was realized as fine. Out of the total cases, 4638 cases were disposed off, he said.
Meanwhile, he informed that the State Government has sanctioned Rs 72.09 lakh for computerization of the department in the last fiscal.
“This initiative would go a long way to minimize work load, bring in more transparency, allow the department to collect revenue through e-payment, receive applications for permits and issue permits on-line,” Sangma said.
Earlier, while moving the resolution, NPP legislator James PK Sangma had expressed concerns over the failure of the Government to strictly implement the legal age limit for persons to be eligible to drink.
“At present people who are below the prescribed legal age are buying liquor from the stores which is illegal. Not only this, people who have not attained the drinking age limit are also found entering the bars,” Sangma said.
“The people who manage the liquor stores and bars should ask for an age proof if any young person comes to buy or drink liquor,” the NPP legislator said.
He also wanted to know whether the Government would call for fresh Expression of Interests once the agreement of the implement of the hologram on a pilot project ends, to which the Excise Minister said that open tenders would be called for once the existing agreement expires on May 24, 2013.