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Excise department turns a blind eye to anti-liquor resolutions in Punjab
February, 28th 2012

As if problems caused by alcoholism in their villages were not enough, the alleged discouraging attitude of the excise and taxation department has multiplied problems of panchayats, 70 of which have passed anti-liquor resolutions. Members of more than 10 village panchayats were called to the excise and taxation department's state headquarters on Monday to list their grievances against liquor vends in their villages. But many returned dissatisfied.

Panchayat members of Manmajra from Sangrur district alleged 33-year-old Jagdeep Singh of their village died because of excessive consumption of liquor on February 13 while his father Balwinder Singh had also passed away many years ago due to alcohol ism.

Many others have lost their lives due to this scourge in their villages, they added. "A liquor vend is located near the village school and our girls have been facing problems due to drunkards, who sit on the main road and pass comments. But the excise and taxation commissioner says he cannot close the liquor vend. We will not tolerate it at any cost and move the high court," said panchayat member Sukhwinder Singh. Two women panchayat members -- Malkiat Kaur and Gurmeet Kaur -- also alleged that excise and taxation authorities were trying to reject their resolution on flimsy grounds.

This year the department had received around 70 anti-liquor resolutions from village panchayats from all over Punjab.

Of the 72 resolutions passed last year, the excise and taxation department after much dilly-dallying had just closed liquor shops in 32 villages and shifted 10 outside villages.

"This year we have already decided to knock at the door of Punjab and Haryana high court if the authorities reject any resolution without a valid reason," said A S Mann, president of the Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum, who has launched a special campaign against liquor in the state.

According to information under Section 40 of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, the panchayats have the power to close liquor shops in their villages by passing resolutions.

In 2009, 45 panchayats of various villages had filed anti-liquor resolutions and excise authorities had accepted only around 23, in 2010 the number went to 72 and 42 villages got rid of liquor shops, while in 2011 around 70 villages had passed such requests.

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