UP excise dept’s authenticity drive reveals liquor mafia’s wide network
As many as 888 cases have been registered against the liquor mafia in Uttar Pradesh following a joint exercise by the excise department and the police over the last couple of days since six people died after drinking of spurious alcohol in Prayagraj last Friday.
A total of 18, 28,640 litres of illegal liquor was seized from people running liquor vends, excise department officials said. A list of such licensees and liquor vends with a dubious track record was also being maintained.
Field level officers in the excise department are now busy collecting samples from authorised liquor vends in a bid to check their authenticity. They say they have an uphill task.
“With a spurt in deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor, the government has given the excise department the task to ensure that the liquor mafia’s network ends. As we go collecting samples from liquor vends to check authenticity, the enormity of the exercise stares us in the face. It’s a mammoth task,” an excise inspector said.
The excise inspector cited the recent case in Banthara locality of Lucknow, where at least three people died after drinking country-made liquor from an authorised vend. Liquor bottles in large numbers were seized from a fair price shop owner in the locality and he has now been arrested.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the liquor stock of the country made liquor vend in Banthara hadn’t been checked from November 9 to 13.
The role of a Banthara fair price shop owner from whose shops liquor bottles were seized is also under scrutiny.
The recent verification drive, which is in its early stages, has already revealed the extent to which the liquor mafia’s network has spread.
During an inspection of a country liquor shop in Etah district’s Sikari area, 25 litres of illicit spirit, 83 fake pouches, a roll of fake QR codes (QR code is a type of matrix barcode which is put on liquor bottles to ascertain authenticity), and caramel was recovered on Sunday.
Excise officials said a litre of rectified spirit could be used to make up to eight litres of liquor.
“By that logic itself, 200 litres of liquor could have been made from the spirit recovered from the Etah liquor vend. For all you know, the seizure could well be the tip of the iceberg. The empty fake pouches and fake barcodes reveal the deadly game that the unscrupulous are playing from authorised liquor vends,” said an excise official posted in eastern UP.
Empty liquor pouches were also recovered from an authorised vend at Kalal Khedia in Agra. In Pratapgarh, 88.20 litres of illegal country liquor and 1,310 litres of illegal foreign liquor smuggled into the state from Haryana was recovered on Monday.
“FIRs have been registered against licensees of liquor vends. Their licences have been revoked and they would be tried under the Gangsters Act,” said additional chief secretary, excise, Sanjay R Bhoosreddy.
“We are getting liquor samples from authorised vends tested from our laboratories in Meerut, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Prayagraj. So far, 14,892 samples have been collected from 12,957 shops that have been inspected till now,” Bhoosreddy said. However, in the past, such campaigns after the initial buzz had ended tamely.
Sample this: In December 2017, a truck carrying 100 drums of rectified spirit (55 litres each) was intercepted by the special task force (STF) in Kanpur’s Sachendi and two persons, Sahil and Imran, of Gunnaur, Haryana, were arrested.
They named a man Pradhan alias Dinesh Mishra to whom they had to deliver the spirit. The Pradhan gang allegedly has expertise in filling liquor in plastic pouches and bottles on which fake labels and holograms were used.
STF sources claimed that it had emerged that the Pradhan gang was responsible for supply of liquor to shops in Sachendi and other areas on the outskirts of Kanpur.
The STF lodged a case with the Sachendi police. “We were shocked to learn that Pradhan’s name was subsequently dropped from the charge sheet. He was given a clean chit,” said STF sources.
In February, the STF arrested Rajesh Jaiswal and Vipin alias Sonu of Kanpur Dehat and recovered ‘Madhuri’ (a country liquor brand) labels, bottle caps and holograms worth Rs 20 lakh. This material was to be used to sell liquor worth Rs 10 crore from shops, according to the FIR.
However, three key players of the gang were allegedly let off. Like in the case of Pradhan, the names of key accused were dropped, said sources.
“The business of locally brewed and packaged liquor from government approved shops has been going on unchecked for the last four years. The local brew was being supplied at half the cost of the legal one and good profits to all the stake-holders were the driving force,” said STF sources.
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