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“Armies” of liquor barons harass hoteliers
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar: Private armies of “goon looking youngsters,” hired by certain liquor barons have not only been “coercing” a large number of hoteliers, owners of marriage palaces and marriage parties to buy liquor from the liquor vend falling in their respective areas, but they were even allegedly putting up illegal “nakas” on state highways to search vehicles for liquor and were even conducting illegal “raids” on the hotels, marriage palaces and restaurants.

Though State Excise and Taxation Department officials have denied charges, enquiries by The Tribune have revealed that a sort of fear psychosis has been created by gangs of liquor barons. The single day permit, with a fee of Rs 1000, enables a person to “transport and possess” a specific quantity of Indian made foreign liquor and beer for the special occasion”. But despite this, the hapless organisers of a marriage and some other party, and owners of the palace where it was organised were left with no choice but to buy liquor from the nearest vend in the wake of alleged inaction against groups of youths, who often “raid” the place without the presence of Excise and Taxation officials, with the Excise and police authorities usually turning mute spectators for reasons best known to them.

Information also revealed that the “private armies” of liquor barons had not only young unemployed people on their “rolls”, but also lower-rung police officials, who were either suspended for one reason or the other or were sacked from the force long time back. Sources in the hotel and marriage palace industry also made a startling revelation that usually when some person intended to obtain the L-50 permit he was assured that his permit would be directly reaching a particular vend and all he needed to do was to reach the vend and collect his permit and consignment of liquor. “Men of liquor traders do compel people to buy from a particular vend and it happens in Bihar style. Once they had indulged in rowdism and we had to lodge an FIR against certain elements last year,” admitted Mr S.K. Mehta, manager of the Kamal Palace hotel.

Similarly, Mr Kuljit Sahota, owner of Maqsudan-based Vijay Resorts, alleged that at times even parties were disrupted by such elements. Another senior police officer admitted that even army personnel were not spared if they dared to fetch the liquor, for some private function, from the army canteen. “Yes, they do threaten us and ask for details about purchase of liquor by some person organising party in our hotel. Though we have not allowed any such elements so far, they insist on checking on their own,” said Mr Jaswinder Singh, one of the owners of the local Dolphin hotel.

The modus operandi of such “private” army was to spot a place where a function was to be organised and then check whether liquor had been purchased from the nearest vend.

While Mr O.P. Kakkar of the Tara Palace maintained that he had never faced any problem at the hands of such elements, Mr Kamaljit Singh, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, denied that any such development was taking place. Maintaining that it was illegal if somebody was putting up any nakas on its own, Mr Kamaljit Singh said usually officials of his department remained present at such nakas. He, however, could not give a satisfactory reply as to why people were forced to buy liquor from a particular vend. “Usually, they have to buy from the nearest vend as per the auction norms,” he said.

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