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Standing hinged: Creation of SEB and its legal sanctity 

by Sharath
426 views Polavaram
A PIL is filed in the Andhra Pradesh High court challenging the creation of SEB as it is against the government service rules and the Excise Act.

The Andhra Pradesh government’s two self-claimed policy accomplishments are the new sand policy and the prohibition of liquor in the State. Claims of the government apart, the policies are highly criticised for their inadequacy and lack of foresight. 

Soon after coming into power, the YSRCP government scrapped the ‘Free Sand Policy’ introduced by the TDP government and brought in place the new policy. The objective of the new system was to curtail hoarding and black marketing of sand. Similarly, the ruling party introduced Andhra Pradesh (Regulation of Trade in Indian Made Foreign Liquor, Foreign Liquor) Act, 2019, by amending the old act of 1993. By doing so, Jagan Mohan Reddy claimed to fulfil two of his frontline electoral promises.

The absence of clear guidelines on extractions, transport and distribution of sand resulted in a shortage of sand. The sand crisis has hit construction, infrastructure and allied sectors severely. Reports of illegal inter-state sand transportation have increased substantially after the new sand policy. On the other hand, the new liquor policy drew criticism for a 100% spike in the rates and black marketing. An increase in spurious liquor and consumption of Arak is reported.

To keep a curb on illegal transport of sand and illicit manufacture of liquor, the AP state government has decided to set up Special Enforcement Bureau (Sand & Liquor). The bureau will be an autonomous body monitored by Director General of Police. Commissioner will be appointed as director of prohibition. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASPs) will work under the Commissioner. Each ASP has 20 – 30 personnel under them. They would be coordinating with District SPs. Border districts with high chances of illegal transport and at these locations IPS cadre officers will be posted as in charges, and they also report to Commissioner Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB). 

The primary duty of SEB is to prevent illegal smuggling of sand and liquor. Between May 16 to June 16, the SEB has claimed to have booked 15,745 cases against liquor and sand smugglers and arrested 21,798 accused, thereby seizing 75,731 litres of ID liquor and 3.82 lakh tonnes of sand being transported illegally in the State. The main opposition party, TDP, has accused some of these arrests to be illegal, planted and part of political persecution by the ruling party.

Despite tall claims by SEB, they failed to control the illegal sand quarrying and transportation in the State. In Chief Minister’s native district, Kadapa, the government has sanctioned only 10 sand reaches. Whereas there are over 25 illegal sand reaches reportedly indulging in illegal mining and transportation of sand across the Penna River.

A Public Interest Litigation  is filed in the Andhra Pradesh High court challenging the creation of SEB as it is against the government service rules and the Excise Act. The advocate for the petitioner argued that as the SEB does not have the legal sanctity. High Court issued notices to the Chief Secretary, special chief secretary, the Director General of Police and three others wanting to know under what rules and regulations the SEB was formed.

While the government wants people to see SEB as an extra executive arm for better implementation of liquor and sand policy, in reality, it is criticised for being body facilitation for the ruling party. 

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