Liquor, Tourism, Entry In Himachal Pradesh Will Now Cost You More

The state government has decided to levy a cess of Rs 17 per liquor bottle. This includes an existing cess of Rs 7 per bottle.

A man carrying a few bottles of liquor. (Representative image)

Driving to the hills this summer in your private SUVs, luxury cars, or high-end vehicles to escape early heat in the plains will experience some sense of “Vyavastha Parivatran”, as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu puts it.

Vehicles registered outside the state will be required to pay a higher entry fee between Rs 10 to Rs 50, which is higher than anywhere else. These charges are in addition to toll barriers on National Highways (NHs). The state government has notified 24-hour entry fees to be charged from different categories of vehicles at entry points for the financial year 2023-24.

The hiked rates will be applicable in the state from 1 April 2023. Heavy goods vehicles are now liable to pay Rs 500 instead of Rs 450. Six to 12-seater passenger vehicles will be charged an entry fee of Rs 80, and passenger vehicles will have to pay an amount of Rs 140. Against the previous charge of Rs 40, private vehicle drivers will now pay a fee of Rs 50. 

The Excise and Taxation department has fixed the rates of entry fees for 55 toll barriers under the state. The category for goods-carrying vehicles has also been changed this time. Only vehicles carrying more than 120 quintals were earlier in this category.

Liquor Prices Hiked Now

Shopping for liquor of one's choice in Shimla or other hill towns is also going to cost more with effect from April 1. The state government has decided to levy a cess of Rs 17 per liquor bottle. This includes an existing cess of Rs 7 per bottle. 

As per trends, tourists coming from Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh usually have been carrying liquor battles along, knowing well that liquor prices in hill towns are quite exorbitant. Even locals traveling go shopping for their favorite brands from Chandigarh when traveling there. 

"This decision of the government to levy cess will directly benefit Punjab, not Himachal. The sale of liquor at vends close to state borders has seen a three-fold increase as liquor is cheaper in Punjab," a leading liquor contractor revealed.

The buyers have already been paying cow cess on liquor bottles in the state, money being raised to set up gau sadans for stray cattle. This time the government has imposed an additional cess of Rs 10 as milk cess. The excise and taxation department has notified a policy in this regard. Milk cess has been imposed on English and country liquor, beer, wine, and foreign liquor.

Apart from this, an extra cess of Rs 2.50 per bottle will be charged for the Godhan Development Fund. During the Covid crisis, the state government changed the name of this cess to Covid Cess. This has now been discontinued, with its name changed to Cow Cess. The cess tax and excise of Rs 1.50 per bottle will be levied as a development fund.

The cess of Rs two per bottle will go to Panchayati Raj Institutions. One rupee cess will be given to the health department for ambulance services. Overall, consumers will have to pay a cess of Rs 17 per bottle of liquor and beer during the financial year 2023-24.

The cabinet has taken a decision to go in for an open auction of the liquor vends in the state to generate revenue up to Rs 2500 cr against the existing income of Rs 2,120 cr, received through enhanced license fee. Liquor contracts will be auctioned in Himachal from March 16 to 18.

The idea is to raise additional revenue from the sale of liquor in the state to fund some of the newly introduced schemes including the re-introduction of the Old Pension Scheme. In its mission to ensure a monthly income of Rs 24000 to Rs 30,000 for the dairy farmers, the Sukhu government says that it will buy cow's milk at the rate of Rs. 80 per litre and buffalo milk at Rs.100 per litre from the milk farmers.

The government says that the chilling centres would be set up at cluster level in villages for collection and storing of milk from the farmers.

Furthermore, the state government is also contemplating buying cow dung from the farmers at the rate of rupees two per kilogram. The state government has decided to make a provision of Rs. 1000 crore for this vital sector. The money will be raised through different forms of cess and taxes on liquor, water, and entry fee.

Chief Minister Sukhu said the government was committed to implementing all 10 guarantees made during the state assembly elections including the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and guaranteeing Rs 1500 per month to women in the age group of 18 to 60 years.

The state is currently under a debt of Rs 75000 cr. It also has to pay additional liabilities of Rs 11000 cr as arrears of the enhanced salaries, on top of pending DA installments.

To mobilize resources, the government has decided to impose a cess on water consumed by hydro-power projects, and has already revised the water tariff in Shimla. An ordinance has been issued to levy cess on the water payable by all independent power producers having set up hydropower projects in the state post 1990-91.