Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 22
In a major crackdown on distilleries involved in smuggling of liquor, the state Excise and Taxation Department on Friday conducted a stock checking of all 15 distilleries across Punjab.
The checking on all distilleries was initiated after a search was conducted on the premises of a distillery near Rajpura last evening.
A team of Excise and Taxation Department found 22,262 cases of liquor on the premises of this distillery, which they suspected was meant for illicit sale in Punjab, under the garb of sending it to the eastern and central eastern states.
The name of this distillery had also cropped up in the Haryana liquor scam, for illegally supplying liquor to a smuggler in Kharkhoda during the lockdown period.
According to top officials in the Excise and Taxation Department, checking was conducted in distilleries in Mohali, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Bathinda, Mansa and Kapurthala.
Principal Secretary, Excise and Taxation, A Venu Prasad confirmed that searches were on in all distilleries and breweries.
Though the searches continued till late in the evening, top officials in the department told The Tribune that all Excise officials (Excise Taxation Officers and Inspectors) posted in these distilleries were being transferred and replaced.
One Excise and Taxation officer and two or three Excise inspectors are posted to check the working in the distillery every day.
The Excise Department suspects that these distilleries, under the garb of making sanitisers during the two month period of COVID-induced lockdown, manufactured liquor and sold it illegally in the state.
These distilleries are also suspected of having supplied extra neutral alcohol (ENL) to the illegal distilleries that flourished across the state during the lockdown period.
They are also accused of using labels and passes that allowed them sale of liquor to states like Arunachal Pradesh to sell liquor illegally in Punjab. The distilleries were allowed to manufacture alcohol earlier this month.
The Excise Department has so far not passed the order for sale of liquor by distilleries of Punjab to Arunachal Pradesh.
A meeting of the liquor contractors with two members of the Group of Ministers (Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Vijay Inder Singla) appointed by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was held last evening, where contractors are learnt to have raised the issue of illicit sale of liquor by the distilleries, especially by a distillery in the Majha region, which was impacting legal sale from the vends.
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