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    Politicos control liquor trade in Anantapur

    ANANTAPUR: Everywhere in the state liquor is being sold at a price 30 percent more than the MRP and excise officials are doing practically nothing to control it. Rumours are doing the rounds that the `silence' of excise officials is because they have taken bribes worth several lakhs of rupees from the liquor syndicate for being blind to the fleecing of consumers by liquor shops and bars.

    Whenever excise minister Mopidevi Venkataramana visits the district, the issue is taken to his notice and he directs officials concerned to see that the liquor is sold at MRP only. This happened several times. But neither the liquor syndicate nor the excise department took his direction seriously.

    Interestingly, politicians, who take to streets for every flimsy reason, are not raising their voice against the overpriced liquor. Even if they speak against it once or twice, there will not be much fire in their protest.

    A lawyer from Vijayawada has filed a petition in the High Court against the sale of liquor at more than the MRP and the court directed that liquor be sold only at MRP. But even the court direction seems to have little impact as the liquor syndicate continues to sell liquor at exorbitant prices and excise officials continue to overlook it.

    Vested interest

    There is reason for the liquor syndicate's arrogance, as almost all politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, are alleged to be having a share in 260 liquor shops in the district. It is being said that politicians of different parties might not see eye to eye on other issues but are quite comfortable to form syndicate to profit from the overpriced liquor.

    Of the 32 liquor shops in the district headquarters, 19 belong to the brother of a ruling party leader from Tadipatri and the remaining 13 belong to brothers of local leaders of both ruling and opposition parties. During the annual auction for excise licences for wine shops, Rs 70 lakh to Rs 2 crore were spent on getting licences for a single shop.

    As against the government's target of Rs 140crore revenue from the auction of licences to liquor shops in the district last year, a total revenue of Rs 250 crore was generated. Now, to earn back the investment and profit on it, liquor is being sold at 30 percent more than the MRP.

    With increasing criticism and reminder from the High Court, vigilance and enforcement (Task Force) and excise officials conducted raids on 14 shops in Guntakal town last week and imposed Rs 1 lakh fine on each shop. "We have also directed them to display the price list of liqour mandatorily,'' Guntakal excise inspector Thaqvi Basha said. However, it was back to normal on the following day with liquor sold at fancy rates.