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Assam’s country liquor gets branded, to be flavoured

IANS | Guwahati |

Here’s spirited news for tipplers in Assam who favour the raw and rustic country liquor over its refined cousin that goes by the IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) moniker. It will now be branded — and also come in two flavours.

To prevent adulteration and revenue leakage, the Assam government has decided that country liquor would be grain-based, undergo chemical tests and be branded, making it mandatory for the bottles to sport a hologram as in the case of IMFL. The government has also decided to limit the alcoholic content to below 12 per cent.

“Four companies have applied for production and bottling license of country liquor — two in Kamrup Metro district, one in Kamrup Rural district and one in Jorhat district. The factory at Jorhat has registered the Rhino brand for their product and they are likely to soon launch it,” Assam Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya told IANS here.

“The Rhino brand will initially have three products. Of them, two will be orange and pineapple flavoured while one will be unflavoured,” he said, adding that while the move is expected to stop adulteration and check health hazards, it is also expected to increase revenues severalfold.

Earlier, country liquor used to be made from “lali gur” or molasses.

“Unlike earlier, the grain will be fermented to make extra neutral alcohol (ENA), which will be used to make the spirit. Since the ENA will be grain-based it will not be hazardous to health. Besides, the whole process will be monitored in factories and there will be chemical tests,” Suklabaidya said.

The government has also amended excise rules to put in place a scientific system of bottling and trading of the country spirit. The new rules intend to make the entire trade hygienic and transparent, which, in turn, will also augment revenue.

While the sale of country liquor in Assam was 74.18 lakh LPL (London proof litres) in 2015-16, it recorded a sale of 63.75 lakh LPL in the 2016-17 fiscal. The sale figure is expected to go up in the current fiscal due to the steps to check revenue leakages.

While the state has earned a revenue of Rs 966.33 crore in 2016-17 financial year, the department’s target is to earn a revenue of Rs 1,393.72 crore in the current fiscal.

Suklabaidya, who took over as the state Excise Minister only last year, has taken several steps to stop revenue leakages in the department and to bring transparency to the system. For instance, the Excise Department is also the only state department to have completely gone online in its operations.