Despite change of guard in Punjab, liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda, accused in the case of murder of a Dalit man at Abohar in Fazilka district, continues to enjoy patronage of officials in jail. And not only to run his business, but to even expand it.
Ferozepur divisional excise and taxation commissioner (DETC) Jaswinder Singh met Doda, who is better known by the nickname Sholly, in the Amritsar central jail on Tuesday. This first came to light in the viral audio of a phone call between Abohar liquor contractor Balkaran Singh Bhullar and the DETC, in which the latter said he was busy in a meeting with Doda.
Jaswinder, when contacted, acknowledged the meeting and explained, “The present liquor contractors for Abohar region owe us a huge amount, so we are approaching every probable contractor, including Doda, to participate in a re-auction.” The present contractor in Abohar is Bhullar, who in the phonecall can be heard telling the DETC about problems he is facing in running the trade. But the DETC hangs up, telling him that he is in a meeting with Doda.
The meeting has angered not only business rivals but also the family of Bhim Sain Tank, the 27-year-old man who was brutally murdered at Doda’s farmhouse in Abohar on December 11, 2015.
Bhim’s brother Sunil Tank referred to how Doda was earlier shifted from the Fazilka sub-jail to Amritsar when found holding a meeting with supporters in jail before the February assembly polls. Doda, who ran a close second as an independent reportedly backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from Abohar in 2012, supported the BJP candidate who eventually won this time.
“Even when the Congress has come to power, Doda has managed to get majority of liquor vends of Ferozepur, Moga, Muktsar and other adjoining areas in the name of his son’s firm, Gagan Wines. And he was even transferred to the Faridkot jail to smoothly run his trade,” added Sunil. “It was only after we raised the issue that Doda and his nephew were shifted back to the Amritsar jail. But now senior excise officials go there to meet and help him run his business,” he further said.
He demanded that Doda be kept under round-the-clock camera surveillance and no one be allowed to meet him without court’s permission. “Otherwise he will get witnesses to turn hostile by using muscle and money power.”
When contacted, jail superintendent Ashish Kapoor also acknowledged the meeting between Doda and Jaswinder. “After receiving a written request, we allowed him (Jaswinder) to meet Doda. He carried his mobile phone as he is a government official,” Kapoor furthered.
Apart from Doda and his nephew Amit, 24 others are charged with the killing of Bhim. The Supreme Court will next hear Doda’s bail application in July.