As Haryana Bids Goodbye to Good Times, Pint of Corona to Cost Rs 360 (Others More!) in Gurgaon
JUST AS we were celebrating Gurgaon’s emergence as a gourmet destination right in our backyard, the Haryana government decided to wreck the party. And surprisingly, its new excise policy, going contrary to the rationale followed across the world, makes domestic beverages with more alcohol cheaper than beer and wine. And that’s just one part of the story.
By introducing a levy called ‘assessment fee’ and compounding the blow by raising the VAT on imported alcoholic beverages to 26.25 per cent, which clearly goes against the commitment made by India to the World Trade Organisation (that the states won’t resort to ‘double taxation’ on products that have already paid import duties), Haryana has pushed the price of foreign beer up by Rs 210 a pint and of a 750ml bottle of imported wine by Rs 300. A 30ml shot of imported spirits, on the contrary, will now cost just Rs 17 more. A Corona, as a result, will now cost a ridiculous Rs 360, compared with Rs 150 at present. OK, the state government has scented an opportunity in Gurgaon’s flouring food and beverage scene, but won’t its retrogressive excise policy, based on some complex mathematics, also drive down consumption in the long run and hurt its tax collections?
As if this wasn’t enough of a disservice, the state, perhaps inspired by the Union Budget raising the insufferable service tax from 12.36 to 14 per cent to further squeeze an already overtaxed sector, has doubled the annual licence fee payable by restaurants from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 12.5 lakh. That’s more than even what restaurants have to pay in Delhi. Who’ll suffer? You and I, who else!
Defenders of the state government, or the trolls who wear khaki underpants, may come out with cacophonous moral arguments against fine dining and drinking, but if the new dispensation’s motivation was a moral clean-up, why has the licence fee for the highly lucrative Ahatas (now renamed ‘anumat kaksh’), which as essentially liquor shops doubling as restaurants on vast tracts occupied by them before Gurgaon became Millennium City, dropped to Rs 1 lakh? Why have they been exempt from VAT and the obnoxious service tax on food sales? And why don’t they require Food Safety and Service Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) certification?
Where, one must ask like Rahul Singh, Founder and CEO, The Beer Café, and Secretary, National Restaurant Association of India, is the level playing field here? It reeks of politics.
This article appeared as a part of Fortune Cookie in the Mail Today of March 12, 2105. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers