Will Kumar Pal Gautam’s entry in Excise Dept bring about the much needed reform?
Jaipur: The 2009 batch ‘young IAS’ Kumar Pal Gautam has taken the reins of the Excise Department at a time, when the department is going through its worst phase. In the three and a half years of the current government, 8 Exise Commissioners have been changed, i.e. Prithvi Raj, Somnath Mishra, Bishnu Charan Malik, Jogaram, Chetan Ram Deora, Prakash Rajpurohit, Ravi Kumar Surpur and now Kumar Pal Gautam. Whereas, in the nine years preceding this government, three Commissioners played long innings. These were OP Yadav (4 years), Ajitabh Sharma (3 years) and Dinesh Kumar (2.5 years), who took the department to newer heights. At that time, the work of monitoring of 133 Excise Inspectors, posted in 133 circles of the State, was done meticulously from the Headquarters based in Udaipur. The Preventive Force of the department had immense terror and such was the situation that the department would always give more revenue than the financial target it set for itself.
Those were the ‘Golden Days’ of the department, but now situation has changed completely. When the chief of the department is not staying on the crease, then who would make the ‘runs’ for the department? Interestingly, during these three and a half years, there came two Commissioners, who did not even go to Udaipur. The other reason why the department is in shambles, is the RSBCL being un-reined. In the beginning, Principal Secretary, Finance used to serve as Chairman of this company and the Excise Commissioner used to be its MD. But later Secretary, Finance became its Chairman and MD and this is where the situation began to tumble. RSBCL is the backbone of this department and when Excise Commissioner ddn’t have a control over this department, so the Commissioner became ‘teethless.’ Then, the responsibility of ED of RSBCL was handed to a RAS officer instead of IAS. As on today, this RAS has the reins of at least half of the department. Moreover, the new Excise Policy, released this year, also did not do any wonders for the department and actually flopped. The financial target for the current financial year (2022-23) isRs 15,000 crore and the department, over the past 4 months, has been unable to sell out all of its IMFL shops. After the policy was released, the department gave an opportunity to get the licenses of 7,665 liquor shops to be renewed, but merely 800 licenses were renewed.
For the remaining shops, at least half a dozen times auction has been done, but 91 shops still await a licencee. This has happened at a time, when there has been major changes to the policy along with a 60 per cent rebate in guarantee amount. Moreover, the Preventive Force of the department has long let go of its main task of finding illegal liquor, and has rather working meticulously towards ‘Hafta Wasooli’. Commissioner is the top most officer of this force, but even he has left this force to its own fate. Kumar Pal Gautam, who has served as Collector of four districts, is a dynamic and a result -oriented officer. His performance for the past two years in RUIDP has been exemplary. He was a contender for Jaipur Collector, but he has been given this major responsibility of Excise Department. The department’s pitch is not conducive to making runs, so it will be difficult for Kumar Pal to play a long innings. If the government also hands the reins of MD, RSBCL, to him, then perhaps the situation may improve.