Bootleggers have an edge over officials?

Seizure of lahan raises questions

Bootleggers have an edge over officials?

Drums, gas cylinders and cans recovered during the lahan seizure.

PK Jaiswar

Tribune News Service

(Lopoke) Amritsar, March 1

The seizure of huge quantity of lahan (raw material mixed for distillation of illicit liquor) and illicit liquor in the early morning swoop down on Monday has raised many questions.

It has hinted at well-oiled network involved in the bootlegging running right under the nose of the Punjab Police while involvement of political patronage of the unscrupulous elements cannot be ruled out. It is being touted as a failure of the rural police in nailing bootlegging rackets.

Though the excise and the Punjab Police officials also pointed out that huge profits in the illegal trade was also the reason behind thriving business as the accused restart their activities after coming out from jail on bail.

Evidently, the Punjab Government had launched a crackdown on illicit liquor trade code named ‘Red Rose’ after the hooch tragedy in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Batala that had led to over 100 deaths in the border belt last year.

During this, the Excise Department and district administration also tightened the noose around illegal liquor trade and nabbed hundreds of bootleggers in the border state seizing huge quantity of lahan, country-made illicit liquor and licit liquor. Different rackets were unearthed who were involved in pilfering of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) meant for industrial purpose. This ENA finds its way into the hands of bootleggers who sold them in pouches after mixing with water. In Monday’s seizure, the excise and police officials found piped fittings for discharging waste generated from distillation process besides RCC pits and 64 drums, 42 plastic cans and two water tanks from seven houses.

An excise official, wishing not to be named, said, today’s seizure indicates that the racket has been operating for a long time in the past. “We received the tip-off only yesterday and following it, planned and carried out operation overnight. We have excise force from three districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur besides Punjab Police that conducted the raid,” he said.

Ironically, the Punjab Police in February last year had deputed designated police officers (village police officer) in the rank of ASI, head constable or constable who were asked to visit their respective villages at least once in a week. These officials were tasked to keep tabs and gather information about the criminals, including their activities and whereabouts, criminals missing from the village etc, drug sale and distribution too.

Interestingly, the police did not know about the racket still running in the village. Further, the police have been carrying out cordon and search operations in the villages on daily basis in order to curb bootlegging.

Shailender Singh Shelly, Superintendent of Police, however, said it would be wrong to paint it as failure of Punjab Police. “We have been carrying out operations while there have been around 17 cases of under the Excise Act against the same persons who were arrested today,” he said. He added the police department has made huge recoveries and arrested a large number of liquor smugglers in the past.

Past and present

  • After hooch tragedy, different rackets were unearthed who were involved in pilfering of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) meant for industrial purpose. This ENA finds its way into the hands of bootleggers who sold them in pouches after mixing with water.
  • Ironically, the Punjab Police in February last year had deputed designated police officers (village police officer) in the rank of ASI, head constable or constable who were asked to visit their respective villages at least once in a week. These officials were tasked to keep tabs and gather information about the criminals, including their activities and whereabouts, criminals missing from the village, drug sale and distribution too.
  • On Monday, the excise and police officials found piped fittings for discharging waste generated from distillation process besides RCC pits and 64 drums, 42 plastic cans and two water tanks from seven houses.

Lucrative business

  • Owing to huge profits, the illegal trade, which is nonetheless a thriving one, continues to find many takers. While the accused restart their activities after coming out from jail on bail, several new faces are also joining in .

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