HindustanTimes Wed,26 Nov 2014

Polls bring cheer to Punjab's country liquor manufacturers

ANI  Amritsar/Gurdaspur, March 22, 2014
First Published: 15:06 IST(22/3/2014) | Last Updated: 15:10 IST(22/3/2014)

The forthcoming general elections could prove to be busy days for political leaders, but it will also bring cheer to country liquor manufacturers.

A visit to border villages of Amritsar and Gurdaspur District in the run-up to the elections, indicates that it is party time in the countryside. Several villagers are busy preparing the local brew and filling empty soft drink bottles.

Distilleries have come up in fields. In the event of a police raid, it takes just a bottle or two to placate them, and send them on their way.

Villagers couldn't be happier, as country liquor is their top choice of drink because of its ability to control the senses. Foreign liquor, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have that kind of impact.

Jaggery, the main raw material required for locally brewed liquor, is freely provided by political parties.

Describing the manufacturing process, a manufacturer told ANI: "We place huge quantities of jaggery, mixed with water, Rose petals, zeera, mint, wheat and oranges in an underground tank, and it is left to ferment for about ten days. Then, this mixture is placed in huge kilns, and the liquid is collected through a thin pipe. Each bottle costs between Rs.35 and Rs.45 a litre.

For what is usually a trickle around the year, turns into a 'flood' around the time of elections, and it happens, interestingly, right under the nose of the police.

It doesn't surprise to learn that every liquor manufacturer is aware that they are violating the Model Code of Conduct.

Literally, many villagers are involved in producing local brew. The filling of liquor too is done in a unique way, in empty soft drink bottles of Coca Cola, Pepsi, Dew, limca and even in the empty bottles of Blenders Pride. The distilleries are built in fields.

"Liquor is the best way to lure voters. Candidates and party workers use it to attract voters, generally rural," stated a manufacturer.

During a visit to the border villages some farmers were found harvesting poppy for the production of opium in their fields. Though growing this at a marginal level, between high fields of wheat, they have been doing this to get cheaper intoxication.

One of the farmers said that now there was no need to go to Rajasthan to get opium.

Ravi Bhagat, Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, told ANI that it was a priority to stop such illegal activities.

He said the administration and the police department have formed a flying squad nab such gangs.

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