In dry Bihar, Liquor Party in Custody Station of Excise Dept Exposes Failure of Prohibition
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: NDTV
Patna: In the dry state of Bihar, the excise department and police personnel, who are responsible for executing the liquor ban, have been found involved in the illegal liquor trade, helping the liquor mafia and violators of liquor prohibition.
The latest incident comes as an embarrassment to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Two police officials of the Excise Department reportedly facilitated a liquor party for five accused, who have now been arrested for consuming liquor inside the custody room (hajat), and the officials were also found drunk by the police in Paliganj block of Patna district.
Ironically, this incident came to light a few days after Kumar claimed that the implementation of liquor prohibition, which was enforced in the state in April 2016, was constantly improving, but the police need to go after those involved in liquor smuggling.
The incident was confirmed by ASP Paliganj Avadesh Dixit. "We have arrested all seven, including the two policemen of the Excise Department and five persons, who were taken into custody by the department officials for consuming liquor and put inside the department's hajat, for running a liquor party in violation of the prohibition," Dixit told NewsClick. He added that harsh action will be taken against the two policemen of the excise department.
Dixit further said that the police have started investigating how liquor bottles were made available inside the Excise Department's police station.
Deputy Excise Commissioner (Headquarters) Krishna Kumar said the department will take the matter seriously and will act against those involved. "We are working to enforce prohibition, and it will not be tolerated if someone is found involved in the violation of it," he said.
Amid questions being raised over the failure of liquor prohibition in the state by leaders of opposition parties and leaders of ruling allies and Kumar is under attack for this, a liquor party by accused inside the police station of the excise department at Paliganj thanks to the help of two policemen again exposing the state Mahagathbandhan government's failure to implement the total prohibition.
According to a police officer at the Paliganj police station, soon after they got information about such a party inside the Excise Department's station, a police team raided the place and found it to be true.
"It was a surprise for the police team as well because the accused arrested for consuming liquor by the excise department were busy in a liquor party despite being under custody, and two policemen of the department were involved in arranging cold drinks and salty snacks for them", a police official said.
Police have recovered bottles of desi and mahua liquor and mobile phones. "It was found that liquor was mixed in cold drinks for consumption in the liquor party," the official added.
As per reports in local Hindi dailies, the Excise Department officials arrested five persons for consuming liquor on Tuesday in Paliganj and they were put under the custody of the department's police station. But taking advantage of excise police officials, the accused bribed them and got help in arranging a liquor party.
In recent months, the police and excise department officials have been found involved in the storing and selling of liquor and helping the liquor mafia. The state government has arrested dozens of them and sent them to jail across the state in the last few years for violating the liquor ban imposed in the state.
After repeated hooch incidents across the state last year and this year, angry villagers have blamed the local police for the flourishing trade of illicit, country-made liquor in their villages and neighbouring areas. They alleged that local liquor manufacturers and traders are doing business freely, but the police hardly take action despite being aware of it and receiving complaints. If the police had enforced prohibition in the village and acted against the liquor manufacturers and traders, the tragedy could have been averted, they said.
Despite the much-hyped use of drones, copters and motorboats by the Kumar-led government to curb the illegal manufacturing and smuggling of liquor in Bihar, hundreds of poor people have died after allegedly consuming illicit alcohol in the last two years.
Last year, illicit liquor claimed 95 lives in the state, prompting the then ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to question how the illicit liquor manufacturers and traders are freely doing business despite the much-hyped police operation to ensure prohibition. This year, so far, more than 100 people have lost their lives in about 12 hooch tragedies.
Early this week, the state Cabinet approved a proposal for Rs 1 lakh financial assistance for the members of poor families involved in the liquor trade or toddy to ensure the success of the prohibition law's implementation.
Two days ago, hundreds of people belonging to the Pasi community, traditionally known for being engaged in the business of toddy, popularly known as "Tadi", staged a protest in Patna demanding the state government to remove the ban on the liquor's sale. They alleged that hundreds of young and old men from their community were arrested and sent to jail on charges of selling toddy.
During the protest, they claimed that toddy is a common man's beer as it is harmless and not bad for health. For ages, the poor have been consuming it in rural areas.
The demand of protesters was supported by former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi,whose party HAM is a ruling ally of the Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan government. In recent days, Manjhi have requested the government to allow the poor to consume low quantities of the liquor and also demanded to lift the liquor ban.
In more than seven years, one hooch tragedy after another has been reported despite the government imposing a prohibition in April 2016. In contrast, the CM and his Cabinet colleagues have repeatedly claimed that the much-hyped prohibition has been 100% successful.
Prohibition has become a joke among the people with illicit liquor freely available on demand and even delivered at home with the alleged complicity of the police.
Powerful liquor manufacturers or traders have reportedly attacked police teams and officials of the excise department during raids. An assistant sub-inspector of police was crushed to death in Siwan district on May 26 when a police team was checking vehicles. Last year, another police personnel was crushed to death and several police personnel were injured in a series of attacks by liquor manufacturers and traders in different places.
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