After drones, sniffer dogs to help locate illicit stills?

Excise Department sends proposal to state govt for nod

After drones, sniffer dogs to help locate illicit stills?

Illegal running stills at Lopoke which was busted by excise department in a joint operation with the police. Tribune photo

PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, March 2

After using drones for locating illicit liquor trade flourishing in the rural belt, the Excise Department has mooted the use of sniffer dogs for locating lahan (raw material mixed for distillation of illicit liquor) hidden underground.

Additional Chief Secretary (taxation), A Venugopal, has sent a proposal to the Punjab Government in this connection for its nod.

Tightening the noose

  • The bootleggers involved in the manufacturing of hooch or illicit liquor usually hide lahan at the places where it cannot be easily traced
  • This modus operandi is used especially in the areas close to water bodies as it requires a lot of water and also to dispose of the waste generated after distillation process
  • An Excise official claimed to have busted as many as 76 illegal stills in 2020-21 so far and the Amritsar rural police have caught 68 illegal running stills since August 2020
  • The police also seized over 1 lakh kg lahan during this period besides confiscating over 15,000 litres of illicit liquor

Avtar Singh Kang, Assistant Commissioner, Excise Amritsar, has confirmed the development while adding that the department was hoping for the go-ahead soon. The department is to put these specially trained dogs to work for locating lahan hidden by the bootleggers, which could not be traced manually.

The bootleggers involved in the manufacturing of hooch or illicit liquor usually hide lahan at the places where it cannot be easily traced. “Sometimes they dig huge pits and later layer it with tarpaulin. They filled the same with lahan for fermentation. Then, they cover the same with soil after tying the ends of the tarpaulin,” he said. This modus operandi is used especially in the areas close to water bodies as it requires a lot of water and also to dispose of the waste generated after distillation process.

The department doesn’t have any equipment to trace such places and you cannot identify the place manually either. “We can’t locate such places with the help of drones also. One should have specific inputs about the location to trace such pits,” he said.

Therefore, the department has proposed for using sniffer dogs to discover the places where lahan is hidden. Earlier, drones were used extensively to bust bootleggers.

During this financial year 2020-2021, the Excise Department has seized 1.15 lakh litre of illicit liquor besides 1.17 lakh kg of lahan, which is around four times higher than the last financial year (2019-2020). Even though the department has busted 76 illegal stills as compared to 43 in the last financial year, the practice seems to be burgeoning. The conviction rate is also much higher this time.

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