Shillong: A legislator in Meghalaya on Tuesday posed a question in the state assembly as to what was the difference between consumption of alcohol and rice.
“Rum in the form of liquid is consumption and rice in the form of solid is also meant for consumption, what is the difference here,” Independent legislator, Syntar Klas Sunn asked State Excise Minister, Kyrmen Shylla during the Question Hour in the Assembly.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma was quick to intervene saying that the question was taking a different trajectory altogether.
“Consumption of rice is a priority because it is a staple diet of the State. Rum consumption is a completely different topic. Alcohol drinking is an individual’s desire whether they want to drink or not it’s an option. But rice is a staple diet. Therefore comparing the two is defeating the purpose of the question,” Sangma asserted.
The Chief Minister informed that the State produces about three lakh metric tons of rice and there is about four lakh metric tons of consumption.
Earlier, the Excise Minister said that the State government was not contemplating legalisation of local brew, an alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented rice in line with the Japanese Sake.
Shylla said that the reasons for not allowing local alcoholic brew from fermented rice is that it is the staple food of the citizens and is primarily used for food consumption only and that Meghalaya, being a non-milling State, broken rice is not abundantly available.
The Excise Minister said that there is only one slab of rate under the Meghalaya Value Added Tax Act, 2003, for levy of tax on sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) products which is 40 percent with effect from March 15, 2017, with 20 percent concession of rate on rum sold in Central Defence Service Canteens to defence personnel for own consumption.
He also informed that revenue collection from Value Added Tax imposed by the department on sale of IMFL during – 2017-18 – Rs. 180 crore, 2018-19 – Rs. 160 crore, 2019-20 – Rs. 204.31 crore and in 2020-21 upto January – Rs. 140 crore.