Bhubaneswar, May 25: Odisha government’s chief spokesperson on COVID 19 Subroto Bagchi who had been regularly briefing the media (mostly virtually) and the general mass on how to combat the global pandemic had suggested an array of prophylactic measures in the past to fight COVID 19.
Recently, Bagchi had asked the general public to not fall prey of liquor addiction and maintain social distancing from the spirit. He also had said, citing scientific researches that ‘liquor intake reduces immunity of human beings’. His special appeal to not consume the product was meant to help the people better prevent spread of the disease in the local population.
“Do not fall prey to liquor and other addictions. There have been myths going around that liquor can help in fighting against COVID 19. There is no scientific proof to back such statements. In fact intake of liquor reduces immunity of human beings,” he had told to the people of Odisha.
However, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-ruled government in the state seems to have ignored the scientific piece of advice given by the chief spokesperson of the same government on COVID 19. The government recently allowed home delivery of liquor for spirit enthusiasts.
It however decided to increase the cost at the consumer end by adding 50% Special Covid Fees to divert the taxes earned from drinkers for healthcare. It however further added the cost due to delivery charges, a decision not gone well even with the foreign liquor trader associations of Odisha.
Leader of Opposition in the Odisha Assembly and BJP leader Pradipta Nayak has also raised the issue that how can the Naveen Patnaik government open such outlets during a global health crisis when its own spokesperson had admitted that liquor reduces immunity.
Point noteworthy that sales of liquors and the jam-packed counters of liquor shops show how important the outlets are for the economy of the state as a good amount of revenue is collected through such liquor industry. Sales of liquor are an important part of revenue receipt of the Excise department.
The Economic Survey of Odisha for 2020-21 (in public domain) said that Excise department is one of the most reliable source of state’s revenue besides VAT. The survey report said, “VAT and state excise are the largest contributors to the State’s own tax revenue, while the industry sector drives the own non-tax revenues of the State. Post the introduction of GST, the revenues from SGST are also significant contributors to the State’s own tax revenues.”
The survey report said, “Sales tax and state excise are the major contributors to the State’s own tax revenues with a combined share of over 70% and a strong growth each year,”
However the liquor industry in the state often openly flout the Excise Department norms of abiding by the sales on MRP and others norms. It will be interesting to watch how the Excise Department which ensure sale of MRP rated liquor can manage the affairs of liquor sales during lockdown.