KOLKATA, 9 January, 2009: Excise and finance minister Ashim Dasgupta has a novel way of addressing the hooch menace that is on the rise in the state. He has suggested the setting up of legal outlets, whether of country liquor or India made foreign liquor (IMFL) to meet the increasing demand for alcohol. Of course, the timing has raised questions about whether this is just a ploy to increase the number of shops.
Dasgupta, however, fished out figures to indicate that the number of country liquor and IMFL shops per lakh population is only four in the state. This is far less than that of many other states. For Karnataka has 41, Maharashtra 14, Andhra Pradesh 10, Tamil Nadu 11 in West Bengal there are only 4 shops per lakh population. The minister met excise officials and home secretary Ardhendu Sen to chalk out ways in which to fight the illegal liquor menace by "meeting the demand in the state so that it does not lead to illegal trade".
He said the price of country liquor had to be increased by 8 per cent since the price of the main ingredient molasses has increased 80 times. "If the price of molasses comes down, the price of liquor would also come down," Dasgupta assured. Ahead of the polls, the state government has even planned to provide alternative employment to the poor involved in the illegal trade. While he did not want to disclose the demand and supply figures, he simply said West Bengal would deal with the demand by allowing what is permissible.
The government has chalked out a two-pronged strategy to win over the people against the menace of illicit liquor trade. On the one hand, it has decided to nab the culprits and destroy the illegal liquor centres and on the other, provide job opportunities to help the poor quit the trade.