BOOM TIME FOR BOOT­LEG­GING

With huge prof­its to be made, liquor smug­gling is soar­ing

India Today - - STATE - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

The logic is sim­ple: if there is de­mand, there will be sup­ply. Which ex­plains why Bi­har’s bootleggers, undeterred by the ar­rests of over 20,000 of them since the state’s pro­hi­bi­tion pol­icy came into ef­fect in April 2016, still con­tinue with their liquor runs. Some half a mil­lion litres of smug­gled liquor, worth over Rs 40 crore, has been seized so far. Even de­mon­eti­sa­tion has failed to put the brakes on the lu­cra­tive trade. When the cash dried up, liquor deal­ers shifted to dig­i­tal pay­ments. Last week, police in Ro­htas ar­rested bootleggers who had trans­ferred Rs 40,000-50,000 in salaries to the bank ac­counts of their ‘home-de­liv­ery’ staff. Satya Ku­mar and Shankar Sharma, mem­bers of a gang ac­tive in Dehri, some 150 km from Patna, had given ‘jobs’ to 10 men who had mo­tor­bikes. Early in the morn­ing, they would de­liver liquor smug­gled from Jhark­hand to clients. By their own ad­mis­sion, the duo used to make Rs 15-20 lakh a month. Less sur­pris­ing when you know that liquor in Bi­har now sells at four times the price it does in Jhark­hand. One of the largest seizures was on Jan­uary 15 when Bi­har’s Special Task Force en­tered Jhark­hand’s border dis­trict of Ko­derma and stopped a truck­load (1,500 cases) of whiskey and rum.

The Na­tional Health Sur­vey (201011) says 9.5 per cent of Bi­har’s pop­u­la­tion over the age of 15 con­sumes al­co­hol—at least 4.4 mil­lion peo­ple. The de-ad­dic­tion cen­tres set up by the Ni­tish Ku­mar gov­ern­ment in the dis­tricts have seen less than 10,000 takers. That 22 of Bi­har’s 38 dis­tricts border UP, Jhark­hand, West Ben­gal and Nepal com­pounds the prob­lem. Keep­ing the state ‘dry’ is a daunt­ing task.

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