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Punjab government apologises for liquor brand name


Chandigarh : Punjab government has apologised for allowing the sale of a country liquor named Rang de Basanti, which is also the name of a popular song mainly associated with the country’s freedom struggle and especially with martyr Bhagat Singh.

The Punjab government, realizing its mistake, Thursday asked the liquor company AB Grain Spirits to withdraw the stocks of the liquor brand from the markets.

Punjab Financial Commissioner for Excise and Taxation S.S. Brar, whose department gave the permission for the brand, immediately offered an apology on behalf of the government.

“I am sorry that this happened. We will probe how such a thing happened. The clearance for the name was done at a lower level,” Brar said to a leading news channel.

The objection to the use of the name came from the family of Bhagat Singh, among others.

“That the company wanted liquor to be sold under the brand name of the freedom struggle song of the country’s best known martyr Bhagat Singh speaks volumes about how insensitive people can be. Even the Punjab government, which permitted the name to be used, is equally insensitive to emotions of people involved and is equally to blame,” Bhagat Singh’s nephew Jagmohan Singh said here.

“Rang de Basanti” is a popular song associated with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. The song has also been the source of inspiration for several Hindi and Punjabi films, including Aamir Khan’s blockbuster by the same name.

The brand was launched a month back by leading distillery AB Grain Spirits from its plant in Gurdaspur district. The Rs.22 billion ($500 million) group is owned by the family of liquor baron Ponty Chadha.

“At the very outset, we wish to make it clear that there can be no intention on the part of the company to show any disrespect to a great martyr such as Bhagat Singh. We fully appreciate that the great freedom fighter lives in the heart of not only every Punjabi but also every Indian. We regret to note that there has been a controversy about one of our labels Rang De Basanti,” an AB Grain Spirits spokesman told IANS.

The company is withdrawing nearly 4,000 bottles of the brand from the market, the spokesman said.

“The association between the label and Shaheed (martyr) Bhagat Singh was not intentional at all. In fact, a recent Bollywood film bearing the same title inspired the label. However, since a section of the public seems to have construed it in a certain way, we have decided to withdraw the label in deference to the public sentiment,” the spokesman added.