Tribune News Service
Patiala, May 25
It has come to light that distillers in Punjab smuggled extra neutral alcohol (ENA), which is the key ingredient in manufacturing spurious liquor, to as far as Gujarat and Assam. And this continued for more than eight years. Assam officials had, in 2017, pointed this out in a letter to the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department.
The matter assumes significance today because it was unearthed recently that Punjab distilleries, under the garb of making sanitisers, manufactured liquor and sold it illegally.
The Excise Department has assured that an investigation will be launched to ascertain how the distillers managed to route the ENA to other states and probe the role of its officials.
A police probe into illegal liquor brands manufactured at illegal distilleries has brought out that the accused would make any brand of liquor by diluting the ENA, which costs Rs55 a litre and has 72.5 per cent alcohol content. They would dilute it to 40 per cent alcohol and add artificial flavour and colour, and then misused labels to sell the liquor.
“The interrogation of the recently arrested accused has pointed to a nexus between smugglers, and excise and distillery officials. In some cases, the ENA was stolen from trucks and, in others, distillery officials turned a blind eye in spite of knowing that the ENA was being diluted while the pure ENA was being smuggled,” a senior police official said.
In 2017, the Assam Excise Department had unearthed a smuggling racket allegedly involving Punjab-based companies that diverted the ENA meant for pharmaceutical use. Instead, the ENA was used to manufacture liquor.
“The distillery concerned was issued a show-cause notice and filed for a hearing with the Excise and Taxation Commissioner, but no action was taken against excise officials and smuggling continued for more than eight years,” an excise official said.
In June 2017, a month after the scam, the Assam excise authorities had shot off the letter to its Punjab counterpart, seeking details of the rectified alcohol issued by a supplier in Patiala to two firms in Assam since 2008.
“We recently transferred all officials deployed at distilleries. Now, we are on course-correction and we will identify the black sheep in the department that allowed the ENA to be smuggled,” said Principal Secretary (Excise and Taxation) A Venu Prasad.
Why Sutlej polluted with ‘lahan’: Bajwa
Chandigarh: Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa has drawn attention of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder towards reports of the Excise Department dumping 1.3 lakh litres of ‘lahan’ into the Sutlej in Ferozepur. “It was wrong on the part of the state to damage the environment by dumping ‘lahan’ into the river. The state should have adopted another method to dump it,” he said, reminding the CM about the discharge of molasses by a sugar factory in Kiri Afgana. TNS
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