Patna: In the dry state of Bihar, policemen who are mainly responsible for executing the liquor ban are embarrassing the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar by not only violating it, but they have been found involved in the storing and selling of liquor from police station to home delivery business. These are not just allegations made by opposition leaders, because nearly half dozen policemen have been arrested and sent to jail across the state in the last few days for violating the liquor ban imposed in the state.
The much-hyped liquor ban in the state by Nitish Kumar has been widely seen as a failed attempt by the people, even after nearly three years of its introduction. What has made the liquor ban a joke among people is that illegal liquor is freely available on demand and there is easy facility of home delivery from urban localities to villages. However, the involvement of policemen in selling liquor from the police station as well as their official residences have come as a big jolt to the top brass of state administration that has never missed a chance to claim the total success of liquor ban.
The dominant view in the streets is that liquor is available everywhere, only customers have to pay more for a bottle, particularly for IMFL. Besides, availing desi liquor (country made liquor) is not a problem at all. The bootlegging industry is flourishing in dry Bihar.
A small-time liquor mafia in Sheikhpura district told NewsClick that everything is possible by managing the local police. "We have no difficulty to run liquor trade in black market till we are ready to pay to police," he said.
For instance, two separate incidents involving policemen were reported within a week in Begusarai and Muzaffarpur districts.
In Begusarai, five policemen were arrested and sent to jail on Monday, January 21, on charge of selling and storing of liquor. Begusarai Superintendent of Police Avkash Kumar said, “Five policemen including Special Auxilliary Police (SAP) Ravinder Kumar and Rajdeo Singh, and homeguards Surender Kunwar, Pramid Kumar Singh and Deepak Kumar Singh, were posted in the mufassil police station from where five cartons of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) were recovered during a raid. Each IMFL carton was kept under their bed in the barrack as a safe place.” Kumar said he will not hesitate to take tough action against anyone found violating the liquor ban.
Commenting on the issue, the mufassil police station officer in-charge Rajbindu Prasad said, “Last week a police team had recovered 414 cartons of IMFL from a government-run school in Hanumangarhi village and seized a truck with a Punjab number plate that had brought the consignment from Punjab. During the raid these five policemen had managed to hide five cartons in nearby bush and later shifted to police station barrack.”
But another police official pointed out that for a long time, the arrested policemen had been indulging in the selling of liquor at high rates in the black market which they used to manage from police raids to recover illegal liquor consignments.
Last week, a station house officer and an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Motipur police station were suspended after they were found involved in the selling of liquor from their official residence and even police station. Both are absconding till date.
Muzaffarpur zonal Inspector General Sunil Kumar and Senior Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar have admitted that huge consignments of liquor bottles, over 300 cartons of IMFL, were recovered from the SHO’s official residence. It was one of the largest recoveries of liquor from the house of a police officer in the dry state.
The IG also said it was found in the police investigation that the SHO had a nexus with the liquor mafia and he was indulging in the sale of liquor from the police station as well as his official residence.
The two incidents have again exposed the nexus of police and liquor mafia in running the
illegal liquor business in the state.
In October last year, Lakshmi Narayan Mahto, officer in-charge of Baikanthpur police station and Sudhir Kumar, ASI of the same police station in Gopalganj district had been arrested for selling liquor. Both were caught red-handed by the then Gopalganj SP Rashid Zaman, who was alerted about the incident by the residents, for selling seized liquor from the police station.
A few days earlier, Inspector Nagender Paswan and Sub-Inspector Sanjay Rai of Kaimur district were arrested for consuming and selling liquor from the police station.
A top police official of IG rank told NewsClick that in the last ten months, the police headquarters have received several complaints against the police station officials for helping the local liquor mafia to smoothly carry on their illegal business in return of heavy bribes. However, most of the cases were not reported in public.
“Liquor ban is in deep trouble with the policemen themselves having found an easy way to mint money by taking advantage of their uniform and power by helping the liquor mafia and in some cases indulged in doing business of liquor in black market in the garb of policemen,” the police official said.
The state police have been under fire for tardy implementation of the prohibition law due to regular seizures of truckloads of liquor coming from other states including as far as from Haryana and Delhi. The state government has acted tough against police officials who were found to have links with illegal liquor traders and for their failure to check the rampant trade and smuggling of liquor.
Over 500 Policemen Transferred, Dismissed
In June 2017, the entire staff of Jakkanpur police station in Patna was removed for their nexus with local bootleggers. Earlier in February in the same year, all policemen of Beur police station were transferred after complaints of shielding bootleggers. Nearly 500 police officials have been dismissed from the service for violating the liquor ban imposed by the state government, so far. According to police officials, 180 officers and 318 police men have been dismissed for violating the liquor ban till date.
“The Economic Offence Unit of Bihar police has initiated the process to seize property of dismissed police officials,” a police official said.
Bihar DGP K S Dwivedi has time and again reiterated that, “Tough action has been taken against police officials for violating the prohibition law. Government will take more such tough actions to ensure prohibition in the state, and will not tolerate any violation of prohibition by any one.”
“More than 1.65 lakh persons have been arrested for violating the liquor ban imposed by the Bihar government but only 141 have been sentenced so far,” an Excise and Prohibition Department official said.
More than 1.33 lakh cases in connection with violation of prohibition have been recorded since the ban was imposed in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United government on April 5, 2016.
The police have conducted raids on over 4 lakh locations while the Excise Department conducted raids on more than 2 lakh locations and seized over 16 lakh litres of foreign-made liquor and nine lakh litres of country-made liquor.
In July 2017, Bihar Assembly passed amendments to the prohibition law to curb its misuse. The total prohibition was imposed on April 5, 2016.