The Malwani hooch tragedy in June 2015, which claimed 106 lives, highlighted the failure of the excise department in keeping a vigil on an area that is hardly a km away from its office. A year on, the department claims it has taken measures to curb illegal sale of liquor in the slum pockets of Kharodi, Rathodi and Ali Talao.
According to sources, 50 liquor shops operated and bootleggers sold methanol in the area openly till last year. Reason: the fight in the excise department over jurisdiction. While officers posted at the excise department office in Malwani said the area does not come under their jurisdiction, the Andheri office, which is responsible for Malwani, failed to take action. Four officers from the Andheri office were suspended after the incident.
From June last year, the department conducted 53 raids, arrested 53 people and seized illegal liquor worth Rs7.38 lakh. The officials also seized other types of alcohol, including whisky, beer, country-made liquor from the area.
In three major raids this year, the excise officials seized 5,300 litres of chemicals used to brew hooch. Sources said 1,000 litres of the chemical is enough to prepare 200 litres of hooch.
Every week, the excise officials hold meetings with the Malwani police to get updates on the current situation in the area. “We have been conducting joint raids and combing operations in the area to ensure such an incident doesn’t occur again,” said Balasaheb Jadhav, inspector at Andheri excise department.
Local residents have turned to country-made liquor, leading to an increase of 13.83% in the sales since last year.
Police sources said local dealers have started hoarding country-liquor from wine shops. “To prevent adulteration of country liquor, we have warned local wine shops not to sell liquor in bulk to locals,” said Vikram Deshmane, deputy commissioner of police, zone 11.