One of the 9 “jewels” of Jagan’s manifesto, prohibition loses to pragmatism

Three years after coming to power, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government in Andhra Pradesh has reneged on its promise to implement a total ban.

While the critical financial situation of the state has reportedly forced the government led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to turn around, the ruling party has so far remained silent on the issue and has even at times reiterated its commitment to the promise of a total ban.

A statement by a minister on Saturday makes it clear that a total ban is no longer on the government’s agenda.

When journalists asked Industry Minister Gudivada Amarnath why the government had backtracked on its promise, he said the YSRCP had made no such promise. “There’s no talk of a total ban in our manifesto. Look at the manifesto and if you see we haven’t delivered on a promise, ask us,” he said.

“We had simply said that the price of alcohol (at retail) would be increased to more than the price of alcohol available in five-star hotels.”

He claimed the party was talking about creating a situation where someone thinking about alcohol should get a shock.

Amarnath even challenged the media to go and check the YSRCP election manifesto saying it is available in all government offices.

The YSRCP manifesto for the 2019 elections clearly mentions the promise of alcohol. The pledge to ban the sale of alcohol was one of the “Navaratnalu” or nine jewels, as the party called its pledge of social welfare programs.

“YSRCP promises to implement a statewide liquor ban in three stages,” reads the English text of ‘Navaratnalu’.

It was during his statewide “padyatra” ahead of the 2019 election that Jagan Mohan Reddy promised women that if elected to power, his party would implement a total ban. After taking office in May 2019, the Chief Minister announced that the ban would be implemented in phases and that alcohol consumption would eventually be restricted to five-star hotels only.

The pledge was part of the YSRCP’s detailed manifesto during the 2019 elections.

“Alcohol divides families and ruins human relationships. That is why after we come to power, we will ban alcohol in three phases. Alcohol will be confined to only five-star hotels,” the manifesto reads. in Telugu.

Jagan Mohan Reddy had planned to implement the ban in phases.

As part of the first phase, he proposed increasing awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol and reducing the number of liquor stores.

In the second, it was proposed to increase taxes on alcohol to discourage the poor and the middle class from buying it.

Under the third and final phase, alcohol will only be available in five-star hotels and those who brew or sell alcohol will be jailed, it has been announced.

After coming to power, the YSRCP government even took some initial steps to keep its promise.

One of the first important steps was the government taking over the liquor retail business. He also reduced the number of liquor stores and raised the price of alcohol to discourage consumption.

In the first reversal of this position, the government cut the price of alcohol last year and is now considering handing over alcohol retailing to private traders to boost alcohol revenues.

Lower liquor prices last year led to a 30% growth in liquor sales in the state. The government justified this by saying that it was done to control the smuggling of alcohol into Andhra Pradesh from Telangana and other neighboring states due to high prices in the state. He said the move was also aimed at tackling smuggling.

The monthly income of Andhra Pradesh State Beverages Corporation increased to Rs 2,100 crore-Rs 2,150 crore from Rs 1,800 crore to Rs 1,900 crore.

Amarnath further claims that the YSRCP government has been successful in bringing down alcohol consumption. He closed all “belt shops” or illegal outlets.

“When we came to power, there were 4,500 liquor stores. We reduced the number to 2,900. You can say liquor revenue has not gone down, but liquor consumption has definitely diminished,” he said.

His statement came amid growing opposition criticism of the new bar policy announced by the government, inviting applications for new bars. The Excise Department issued a notification for the granting of 840 bar licenses for three years in 130 municipal corporations and municipalities.

The auction has already brought in record fees in several places. The bar license will be valid for three years with an increase of 10% per year of the license fee.

Opposition parties criticized the bar policy saying it was aimed at further increasing alcohol revenue.

They even alleged that the state government had sold bonds projecting alcohol revenue growth and claimed that revenue from the sale of alcohol had fallen from Rs 14,000 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 22,000 crore in 2021-22.

Party leader Jana Sena and actor Pawan Kalyan alleged that the state government projected this excise revenue to sell bonds worth Rs 8,000 crore.

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is targeting the YSRCP government not only for reneging on its poll promise, but also for scamming liquor sales.

TDP leaders accused the government of promoting alcohol consumption by making available “J-brands” of cheap alcohol.

Opposition parties alleged that cheap booze was killing people. In the latest incident on July 14, two people died in Repalle after consuming alcohol.

In March this year, 19 people died after consuming allegedly cheap alcohol in the town of Jangareddygudem in West Godavari district. The government, however, claimed that these were natural deaths.

Opposition leaders claimed the ruling party was making huge money from the sale of cheap liquor made by distilleries owned by its leaders.

TDP leader and former minister KS Jawahar has called for a judicial inquiry into the revenue generated from alcohol sales.

“Before he came to power, Jagan Mohan Reddy promised to impose Prohibition, but after he came to power and became Chief Minister, he turned it into a source of maximum revenue generation,” he said. -he declares.

“Jagan Mohan Reddy said he didn’t want to see any women widowed because of drinking, but after he came to power he made liquor business a major source of income. How many people died after consuming the strange brands of alcohol and how many women were widowed after Jagan Mohan Reddy became Chief Minister,” he asked.

The head of the TDP claimed that several alcohol contractors who wanted to participate in the auction fled as road contractors.

“Even MPs and MLCs have been threatened not to participate in the auction and the YSRCP government has no proper liquor policy except minting money,” he said. he declares.

Joshua B. Speller