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Seized liquor mostly fake; to be dumped Sunday, July 22, 2001
THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
AHMEDABAD: This can be termed as a cardinal's sin in the eyes of a drunkard. In the last three years, enforcement authorities have seized liquor worth Rs 110 crore and all of it will be destroyed, if it hasn't been already, in this only 'dry' state in the country.
The state prohibition department alone seized liquor worth Rs 23 crore last year and the in the first six months of this year, it has seized liquor worth Rs 18 crore. But all these efforts and exercise would go down the drain - literally. All the seized bottles will be emptied in pits dug by the department in presence of the senior police and prohibition officials once the case filed in connection with the seizures are disposed of by a court.
The authorities have no option, in Gujarat. Seizures in the past have shown most of the labelled brands intercepted by the prohibition or the police departments were 'fakes'.
According to Prohibition Commissioner S K Saikia, "When we tried to trace back the source of the consignments, we found that most of the brands were actually fake." He said investigating officers in several occasions tried to trace the route of the consignment using batch numbers with the help the manufacturing companies or distilleries.
On most occasions, manufacturers said products with particular batch numbers were never processed in their distilleries. "Some of them are the popular brands which were consumed in the state regularly," Saikia said. He said, "because of the doubts in wake of past experiences, we cannot certify the genuineness of the seizure, and liquor shops will not buy unless certified. However, officials suspect that companies try to avoid owning up seized liquor as in many cases they haven't paid excise duty on the consignment."
But Saikia admitted that the seizures were even less than 10 per cent of the total amount of liquor circulating in the state regularly. "With a large quantity of this circulating illegally in the market, it's really very risky as to what quality of liquor the people in the states consume."
According to officials of the prohibition department, the basic source of these liquors in the state are the border districts of Rajasthan, like Vanswada, Sirohi. "Contracts for the liquor shops in these border districts are awarded at exorbitant rates which sometimes cross several crores of rupees", said an officers of the department.
If the liquor sales of these bordering districts is compared with its population, it would suggest that more 50 per cent of the people, including men women and children consume more than 3-4 litres of liquor every day. Which is of course not possible. "The district consumption is just 20 per cent of that, the remaining portion comes into Gujarat through various ways," he adds.
Admitting the facts to a certain extent , Saikia said "as far as our department is concerned, we have to work on intelligence as its not possible to keep check on every vehicle that moves into the state. He said the department just has about 1100 sleuths, all officials on deputation from the police. The sanctioned strength is, however, 1800.
Saikia said the department was annually spending Rs 83 crore towards anti-liquor drives, whereby it has influenced a large section of the rural population to avoid it. "Liquor is a form of entertainment in villages, we are spending to offer them alternatives," he said.
News Source : Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]