India. Liquor supplies hit ahead of New Year

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he New Year spirit is in danger of being dampened in the city with liquor supplies drying up due to introduction of online monitoring of liquor trade at wrong time.

With the software facing teething troubles, the new technology introduced by the government this month has resulted in scarcity of liquor in the market, and the trade body says supplies are down by 60 per cent.

The excise department on December 18 introduced the online monitoring system in all the 13 depots of Telangana State Beverage Corporation Limited (TSBCL) which involves track & trace mechanism and liquor validation.

But, both software and hardware are not working properly. The department gave training to its staff on December 16 and 17, but they are still struggling to come to terms with the new system. As a result, the retail traders are not able to lift the stocks from the TSBCL depots. And the technical hitch has jolted the traders as it comes at a time when the liquor demand is the highest in the year.

“It is an ironical situation since there is enough liquor stocks in the depots and the demand is at its peak, but we are not able to sell it. With the software not working properly and the staff not wellversed with the new technology , the stock is not being released to the market,” said D Venkateswar Rao, president of Telangana Wine Dealers’ Association.

Normally in the month of December, on an average, over 30 lakh litres of beer and 25 liters of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) are expected to be sold. However, with the supply being affected by a software glitch, the retail traders have lifted only 12 lakh litres of beer and 8.75 lakh litres so far. With only two days left before the New Year cele brations, the traders say it is practically impossible to meet the NY demand.

“With the scarcity of the legal liquor supply , there is a possibility of the sales of nonduty paid (NDP) and spurious liquor shooting up. This will only dent the revenue of the government,” said Rayala Subba Rao, honorary president of Telangana Bar Owners’ Association.

Foreseeing the problem, the Association of Liquor and Beer Suppliers had written to the TSBCL on December 19 and asked the corporation to postpone the implementation of new online monitoring system to next month. But, the plea only fell on deaf ears.

“If depots fail to dispatch liquor in bulk to traders between December 21 and 23, retailers may not serve consumers’ choice for Christmas and New Year celebrations.We made this point when we wrote the government, but nothing has happened in terms of rectification,” said M Kameswar Rao, general secretary of Association of Liquor & Beer Suppliers.

Realising the problem rather a little too late, the government on Tuesday step ped in to find a way out. Ajay Misra, revenue principal secretary (revenue), convened a meeting and instructed the excise officials to ensure the liquor supply to the retail traders. “There was a technical snag in the new system which we have identified. The officials are working day and night to ensure smooth liquor supply,” said Misra.

Officials in C-Tel Infosystems, vendor of the online monitoring technology , said the government had asked the company to ensure the supply of 2 lakh liters of beer and IMFL on two days before the New Year celebrations.

“Any technology is bound to face teething problems.While we are confidant of tackling the issue quickly, we are also working on meeting the target fixed by the government,” said K Srinivas Krishna, CEO of C-tel Infosystems.

The traders, however, said 2 lakh liters of beer and IMFL would not be sufficient to meet the peak season demand.