Bootleggers jolt excise brass

Brewing trouble: Hooch-making thrives following arrack ban

The top brass of the department has been shellshocked by the events two days ago, when bootleggers in Kharvi hill near Belgaum attacked an excise raiding party headed by Minister M P Renukacharya, injuring a number of officers.

Until the ban came into effect four years ago, the department had left the job of containing the moonshiners to arrack contractors who would raid the hooch-making camps and destroy them. But with the ban, the raiding system developed by the liquor contractors vanished along with them.

45,000 musclemen

“The contractors had employed nearly 45,000 people, mainly musclemen, only to check IDCs and bootleggers. After we banned arrack, many of them were rendered jobless. Our fear is that many of them with the know-how of the business may be operating the IDCs,” said an excise officer. Another challenge the Excise Department faces is that there are many tribes and communities including a small section of minorities who manufacture liquor at the household level. Belgaum, Bijapur, Bagalkot, parts of Shimoga, Moodigere, Belur-Sakleshpur and parts of Sirsi-Siddapura are rated as high IDC zones. Besides stepping up enforcement activities, the Excise department has decided to turn to panchayat members for intelligence.

“We are issuing notices to all the panchayat members in the State to inform us about the excise law violations,” said a senior officer. The department has also decided to hold Grama Sabhas and rope in women and youth groups in villages.

“We staged street plays to educate people about illicit liquor, but it did not work. Now we are trying all other ways of curbing it,” said the officer.

New measures

The department has decided to intensify patrolling. Each excise inspector will be given a route map on which he has to patrol every day. He will have to sign on the point-books kept at various villages.

The department has prepared a list of some 25,000 bootleggers against whom cases of excise violations were registered in the past and excise officers will have to prepare dossiers of the excise violators living within the beat limits.

The officers have been instructed to take all measures to make the bootleggers’ business unviable.

The Excise Department has categorised 45,000 people, who were employed previously by arrack and toddy operators, as ‘potential offenders’ and they too would be under the watch. The department has also decided to keep records of those working in the liquor shops.

Some heady facts...

*   Intelligence inputs rate IDC density in at least seven districts to be high
*   State has 1,465 small, medium and large IDCs
*   At least 25,000 IDC operators exist in state
*   Musclemen of arrack contractors seen as potential offenders
*   Many tribes and some minorities too run IDCs
*   Excise inspectors to be given route map for patrolling
*   Patrolling officers to prepare dossiers of 25,000 excise violators
*   Panchayat members to act as excise informers

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