Jharkhand turns into illicit liquor producing hub
Excise department seized 1.43 lakh litres of unauthorised liquor and lodged 10,933 cases in last 14 monthsUpdated: Sep 07, 2017 13:14 IST
Prohibition in Bihar and taking over of liquor retail by Jharkhand government have turned the tribal state into a major manufacturing hub of illicit liquor that is not only causing threat to human life but a huge revenue loss to state exchequer, experts said.
In last 48 hours, 13 persons, including two Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) jawans, died after allegedly consuming spurious liquor sold by unauthorised retailers. The deaths by consuming illicit liquor come hardly a month after the state government had taken over liquor retail on August 1 and prohibited sale of liquor by private parties.
The impact of thriving illegal business in the state could be gauged from the fact that the state excise department has seized over 1.43 lakh litres of illicit liquor and lodged 10,903 cases in last 14 months, said excise department officials.
The private traders, who were in liquor business, said demand for illicit liquor has increased manifold after Bihar imposed blanket ban on sale and consumption of liquor. Jharkhand’s bordering districts like Koderma, Palamu, Deoghar and Chatra have emerged as transit points for supplying illegal alcohol to Bihar.
The trade started prospering after Jharkhand government decided to shut all 1,450 private outlets and sell alcohol through Jharkhand State Beverage Corporation Limited (JSBCL) shops from August 1 this year. Even after a month, the JSBCL could open merely 455 outlets across the state.
“After liquor ban in Bihar, Jharkhand turned into a major manufacturing hub of illicit liquor. This got further encouragement after Jharkhand government took over the liquor retail, which created major liquor crisis due to limited shops,” said Jharkhand Wine Dealers’ Association (JWDA) president, Anup Chawla. The trade will grow further if the state government fails to meet boozers’ demand in Jharkhand.
Ranchi police on Tuesday night raided a godown in Namkum and recovered around 2,500 empty liquor bottles, wrappers of several branded companies and around 25 cartons. “Spurious liquor is sold using labels of branded companies here,” said Namkum police station officials.
Chawla said the government was trying to restrict consumption of liquor in Jharkhand but it was a Herculean task. “Restriction on liquor is possible in Bihar, but it will prove dangerous in Jharkhand as liquor is attached to the custom of several communities in the state,” he said.
Jharkhand is second state after Chhattisgarh in terms of alcohol consumption. A survey conducted by the Registrar General of India (RGI), which was released on June 8 last year, said 23.4% of men above 15 years of age in Jharkhand drank alcohol. The figure for Chhattisgarh is 33%.
Similarly, tribal-dominated Jharkhand has the highest number of women drinkers in the country, followed by Chhattisgarh. The survey said 3.1% of women above 15 years in Jharkhand consumed alcohol.
State excise commissioner Vinod Sharma said, “We are conducting raids frequently to destroy unauthorised liquor manufacturing units across the state. JSBCL took over the liquor retail to discourage illegal business of alcohol.”
The department is, however, facing acute shortage of excise personnel. Sources in the department said against the sanctioned posts of 622 excise police, it merely had 101 personnel.