Tax stamp move for liquor misguided, says India’s ASPA

An industry group representing authentication technology providers has slammed a move by some Indian regions to replace holographic tax stamps on liquor with plain barcodes lacking security features.

The Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA) has just published a guide for India’s government in the wake of the recent tragedy in which illicit alcohol claimed the lives of more than 100 people in Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts of Uttar Pradesh (UP), and the Haridwar district of neighbouring Uttarakhand.

UP was one of the first states in India to adopt holographic tax stamps almost 17 years ago and today such stamps are used in most states across the country on spirits and wines, says the ASPA.

The UP Excise Department (ED) has however latterly followed the lead of Delhi and introduced plain 2D barcodes as part of a move in compliance with the move to implement track-and-trace technology detailed in the state’s 2019-19 excise policy.

The label format can be easily counterfeited and doesn’t check tampering in an efficient manner, according to the trade group.

 “We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the recent hooch tragedy which happened in UP and Uttarakhand and express our heartfelt condolence to their families,” said ASPA president U K Gupta.

“We request the states government and state excise to review their existing excise policy and implement a solution that is recommended by experts and bodies of the global anti-counterfeiting industry. This will help in ensuring consumer safety, easy identification of genuine products, plugging leakages in supply chain and enhancing revenue for the exchequer.”

The implementation of the track-and-trace system is welcomed but is compromised by the absence of a physical anti-counterfeiting technology, as is described in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards such as ISO 16678, which covers the relationship between unique identification and authentication, and the tax stamp standard ISO 22382 which recommends layered overt and covert security features.

“There are always two primary objectives involved in providing a result oriented anti-counterfeiting solution: first is to provide, safe, genuine products while protecting the revenue stream of the government, and second, of course, is to catch the offenders and stop hooch tragedies and protect humans,” said Gupta.

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