Liquor prohibited in Wardha, home to Gandhi’s ashram. 15 lakh litres of hooch seized
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Liquor prohibited in Wardha, home to Gandhi’s ashram. 15 lakh litres of hooch seized

Mumbai city news: Fifty years after prohibition, illicit liquor worth Rs101 crore was seized from Wardha last month

mumbai Updated: Jul 03, 2017 15:42 IST
Mumbai city news,Prohibition,Mahatma Gandhi
The crackdown was planned soon after the Supreme Court’s order to ban liquor shops along highways in March.(Photo for representation)

Dry Wardha, a district in Maharashtra that is home to Gandhiji’s famous Sevagram, is overflowing with liquor.

Nearly five decades after Maharashtra imposed a blanket ban on the production, sale and distribution of alcohol in Wardha owing to its historical links to Mahatma Gandhi, the district topped the list of places in Maharashtra from where massive amounts of illicit brew were seized during the first-ever such crackdown.

The Maharashtra police and the state excise department seized more than 15 lakh litres of illicit liquor worth Rs101 crore from Wardha last month. The volume accounts for more than half of the 30.35 lakh litres of illicit liquor confiscated from 35 districts during the month-long drive, which did not include Mumbai. Illicit liquor includes illegally sold (and smuggled) Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) as well as country liquor brewed illegally.

As many as 9,889 people were arrested during the drive and a record 12,598 cases registered.

Wardha reported the maximum number of cases registered - 1,297. As many as 531 people were arrested. The most arrests were made in neighbouring Chandrapur, which went dry a couple of years ago - 659. More than 66,000 litres of illicit liquor was seized. Osmanabad came second, with as much as 6.41 lakh litres of alcohol seized.

Solapur (rural) — traditionally known for its endemic hooch production — was low in the list of amount of alcohol seized. Here, 11,237 litres of alcohol was confiscated, however, as many as 509 were held.

Wardha’s superintendent of police (SP), Nirmala Arjun, told HT that the large volume of liquor seized was a direct result of the prohibition law, which led to alcohol being smuggled from neighbouring districts or being brewed by tribals.

“We cannot seal our borders or prevent people from travelling to neighbouring districts where alcohol is sold. People surreptitiously carry four to five bottles. It is not possible to check each person,” she said.

Despite reports of several organised smuggling syndicates operating across the district, police denied having knowledge of these gangs. “Liquor is not being smuggled on a large scale. No syndicates are involved. The problem is caused by small-scale smuggling carried out by individuals and locally brewed hooch,” she added. “The drive helped us identify cracks and we are taking steps to fix them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the additional director general of police (AdDP) Bipin Bihari said the crackdown was planned soon after the Supreme Court’s order to ban liquor shops along highways in March. “Earlier, the raids were patchy and did not cover all districts. This time, we decided to launch raids across state by collaborating with the excise department which regulates liquor,” he said.

The state intelligence department (SID) collected information about places where the trade or production was ongoing and the individuals conducting the business. “In a large number of cases, we found ‘agents’ of liquor shops in villages and small towns. They would keep small stocks and sell those at high prices, while a well-organised delivery system ensured quick supply after a phone call was made,” he added. The information was passed on to local police stations.

Most of those arrested were booked under the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1951 and Section 110 (8) of CrPC. “The licenses of liquor shops engaged in illegal trade have been revoked while externment proceedings under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous (activities) Act (MPDA) is being initiated against repeat offenders,” Bihari said. He added that inspector generals of police have been asked to closely monitor the situation in districts where more than 150 cases have been registered.

First Published: May 25, 2017 15:18 IST