The policy, according to the govt, was aimed at eliminating liquor mafia, stopping the supply of spurious liquor and increasing revenue
The caged parrots are out on a mission, again. The Union government’s targeted fight against corruption has taken a new turn with the registration of a first information report against Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and 14 others including top officials, followed by raids in their residential premises. The FIR alleges that the accused persons were instrumental in recommending and taking decisions pertaining to the excise policy for the year 2021-22 “without the approval of competent authority and with an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender”.
The issue has its genesis in the Delhi government, after going through the due process which included consultation with the lieutenant governor, implementing a liquor policy in November 2021. It sought to keep the government off the business, handing it over to the private agencies instead. The policy, according to the government, was aimed at eliminating liquor mafia, stopping the supply of spurious liquor and increasing government revenue.
Implementation of the policy ran into trouble as soon as the private agencies found the business unviable. One by one, they started returning the licence. By the time the government decided to revert to the old system, only 468 of the envisaged 849 outlets were functional.
A report by the Delhi chief secretary in June this year pointed out a series of procedural lapses in the implementation of the policy; it also talked of undue benefits accrued to the private agencies and recommended an investigation by the CBI.
The BJP would call Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal the “kingpin behind the conspiracy” and would advise the AAP to face the law. The Aam Aadmi Party which runs the Delhi government thinks it is a game the BJP plays to tarnish the party which, according to it, is offering a tough resistance to the BJP in its efforts to return to power in Gujarat in the Assembly elections due to take place later this year. It says the raids were launched the day after the New York Times showered wholesome praise on the revolution the AAP government has initiated in the education sector in the Union territory. The Congress which moved heaven and earth when the Enforcement Directorate called its top leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for questioning in a case now asks for the sack of Mr Sisodia, betraying the total lack of policy direction at the top.
There is no doubt procedural lapses should be investigated into and corrected and unintended loss to the exchequer plugged. And if the public servants made money, then they should be prosecuted. But, despite the raids, the agency has not come out with a finding that the minister made a pecuniary benefit from the new policy.
The CBI’s actions in the case throw up certain interesting observations. One is that a criminal investigation agency is probing the implementation of a government policy and the procedural lapses thereof. It becomes all the more curious when the agency thinks it can book public servants if a government policy results in monetary benefits to a private company. It will also be worthwhile to know if the political executive can be proceeded against if a policy failed to meet its announced targets. The outcome of the latest crusade against “corruption” will indeed have far-reaching consequences.