Haryana has stepped up efforts to rein in mafia, but Yamunanagar tragedy shows enormity of task : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

Haryana has stepped up efforts to rein in mafia, but Yamunanagar tragedy shows enormity of task

Haryana has stepped up efforts to rein in mafia, but Yamunanagar tragedy shows enormity of task

Bhartesh Singh Thakur in Chandigarh

Aconstruction labourer, Jagmal (49) was a habitual consumer of cheap liquor that he would procure in Saran village of Yamunanagar. On November 8 last year, he complained of vomiting, but left for work after self-medication. That very day, he again consumed liquor from the same source. By November 9 evening, he was declared brought dead at Civil Hospital, Yamunanagar.

When his son Mohit Kumar came to know that Anil Kumar of their village had also died the same day after consuming liquor, he got an FIR registered and named people from his village from whom his father used to buy liquor.

Jagmal was the sole breadwinner of the family. “I am studying in college. We have received just Rs 3 lakh in compensation. I am doing part-time jobs to sustain the family,” says Mohit.

Also among the victims were Muzaffarnagar residents Shivam Sharma (25) and Deepak Singh (27). “They had gone to Ambala to work for a liquor businessman, Ankit, who provided them accommodation too,” Shivam’s father Raghu Nandan Sharma said while registering an FIR. Both Shivam and Deepak were working in the illegal liquor factory at Dhanaura village in Ambala. They must have thought the liquor was safe and consumed it.

“We didn’t receive any compensation probably as we belong to Uttar Pradesh. Shivam’s father has just 2-bigha land,” says Shivam’s uncle Yogender Sharma, who is also pursuing the case against the illegal liquor mafia at Ambala.

Situated in sugarcane fields, the illegal unit was being run in an abandoned building hidden from public view. Police raided the unit on the night of November 9 and recovered six bottles of spurious liquor with ‘Malta’ stickers, 14 plastic drums, a Fevicol drum, stickers of ‘Malta’, 2,700 empty plastic bottles, and a machine to manufacture liquor.

In the days to come, reports of deaths due to spurious liquor started pouring in from other villages of Yamunanagar. Twenty persons died, while five survived. Haryana Police lodged five FIRs and arrested 36 people. Investigations revealed that Ankit purchased 2,000 litres of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) from Anshul Garg, who owns a sanitiser unit in Karnal. He had allegedly chalked out a plan to run the unit while in jail in Kurukshetra with gangster Shamsher Singh, alias Monu Rana. It is alleged that methanol was added beyond the permissible limit, which became fatal.

Ankit had been arrested for running an illicit liquor unit in Saha (Ambala) in 2021 too.

The property in Dhanaura was taken on rent in October and manufacturing started in November. The ‘Malta’ stickers were procured from Delhi. The bottles were bought from Himachal and colours and essence from Chandigarh. From Dhanaura, the illicit liquor travelled to Yamunanagar’s villages and was distributed through ‘khurdas’ (illegal sellers). They charged Rs 140 per bottle, cheaper than licensed country-made liquor. A total of 105, 43 and 79 boxes were supplied in three transactions. From there, 117 boxes were distributed through ‘khurdas’. Also, 110 boxes were destroyed after fatalities were reported.

Licit liquor cases are those where liquor is genuine but there is theft of government duties. Illicit liquor cases are those where liquor is produced without a licence and there is no quality control. If spurious, it can lead to death.

The state government had issued a notification to set up the Haryana State Enforcement Bureau (HSEnB) in March last year to deal with illegal mining, theft of canal water, power thefts and sale of illicit liquor.

As Lok Sabha elections are approaching, the focus of HSEnB is on illicit liquor. It has launched statewide campaigns; 22 units, with more than 500 police personnel, are involved. “A total of 92 FIRs have been registered and 87 people arrested for illicit liquor,” reveals Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) AS Chawla, who heads HSEnB. “From January 1 to March 26, 1,935 FIRs have been registered and 1,801 people have been arrested in cases of illicit liquor and smuggling.” There has been a recovery of 31,574 bottles of English liquor, 1.38 lakh bottles of country-made liquor, 66,611 litres of illicit liquor, 12,203 litres of lahan and 8,085 beer bottles.

“We have also floated helpline numbers, 9729900030 and 9416465862, where the public can call and report about illicit liquor being sold or manufactured,” says ADGP Chawla.

From June 12 to November 7 last year, 2,193 samples were taken from retail vends across the state. “After November 7, a total of 2,875 samples were taken till the end of the month, but none was found unfit for human consumption,” says Excise and Taxation Commissioner Ashok Kumar Meena. He also refutes reports that spurious liquor that claimed so many lives in Yamunanagar was sold at any authorised vend. “It was all through ‘khurdas’,” he claims.

Meena says a QR-based track and trace system has been launched “that can facilitate tracking the movement of bottles. It will also help in identifying whether the liquor is genuine”.

CCTV cameras have been installed in all distilleries and bottling plants in the state, with an integrated control room at the head office. Cameras are compulsory at wholesale licencees’ offices and at vends, says Meena. Trucks entering the state with liquor will be monitored through the transit slip, he adds.

The resolve to check irregularities can be gauged from the action taken against 27 police personnel in 14 cases of issuance of permits and passes when the vends were closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. The Excise and Taxation Department issued chargesheets to eight Assistant Excise and Taxation Officers and 15 inspectors. But, as the Yamunanagar tragedy shows, the task requires 24/7 vigilance.


Top News

Willing to tender public apology, Ramdev and Balkrishna tell Supreme Court

Supreme Court asks Ramdev, Balkrishna to issue public apology; says not letting them off hook yet

Both Ramdev and Balkrishna were present during the hearing a...

United Nations worried Israel could strike Iran nuclear facilities

United Nations worried Israel could strike Iran nuclear facilities

Iran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, but We...

This election is to punish those who are against Constitution: PM Modi

This election is to punish those who are against Constitution: PM Modi

He also accused the opposition leaders, including those of t...

BJP announces 4 candidates for Lok Sabha polls in Punjab

BJP announces 4 candidates for Lok Sabha polls in Punjab; fields ex-IAS officer Parampal Kaur from Bathinda

The party replaces Union minister Som Parkash with his wife ...


View All