BOOM TIME FOR BOOTLEGGING
With huge profits to be made, liquor smuggling is soaring
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.