Around 8am, as you leave this village a kilometre behind and turn left from the Malookpur canal bridge to a trail along the channel, you smell liquor brewing. On the other side of this country trail that only a two-wheeler can negotiate is another small water channel, separated from the canal by 20 feet of dense bushes, in which you note some activity.
People avoid this isolated site, the house of illicit country-liquor industry.
To avoid attention, the HT team is dressed as rural folk. A teenage motorcyclist holding an empty bottle and a man hauling wood on a scooter pass us.
Both take a U-turn from a narrow link (about 2 km from the main bridge) to the other side of canal and take opposite directions. The bottle was meant to collect liquor and the wood to be burnt as fuel in a furnace to make booze. The canal is the coolant.
The furnace is on the low ground between the channel and the canal. Pipes are dipped into the canal to cool the boilers. The men at work on other side spot a camera and our cover is blown.
As they raise an alarm, the brewers hide in the bushes and a stone hurled at us falls short into the canal.
A chase is ordered. Poor accessibility, that makes the site an ideal hideout, help us get away safe.
Lambi knows how Katteanwali developed as illicit-liquor den under the protection of an influential politician from Kolianwali village in the chief minister’s assembly constituency and the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat of the latter’s daughter-in-law.
So much is the terror of this politician that not even an opposition worker will lend you a motorcycle or guide you to the place. Come elections, liquor is in demand there is no better place to brew.
“Most cases of bootlegging or liquor making are against the natives of Katteanwali,” accepted munshi (head constable) Subash of the Kabranwala police station.
“It is impossible that police are unaware what is on, since we, all the natives, know. They know the liquor will influence voters in the elections,” said a Congress worker from the village.
The liquor is brewed in the morning and sold in the evening. Many houses in Katteanwali have turned liquor shops. In the election season, the breweries increase production.