Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ban Illicit Liquor


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West Bengal is having a series of traumatising experiences. About 200 people, the majority of them daily wage earners, died after drinking illicit liquor. It shows the unbridled lawlessness prevailing in the business. The victims included teenagers as well as septuagenarians. They drank from the same stock sold by different vendors. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not do herself credit by trying to pass the buck to the CPI(M). Political bosses belonging to different parties and some administrative functionaries are all involved in such illegal business booming in various parts of the country. Khore Badshah who was the kingpin in the racket in West Bengal which killed so many people is reported to have switched allegiance to the Trinamul Congress after it defeated the CPI(M) in May this year.

Illegal liquor trade is not typical of West Bengal. In 2009, 136 people died of consumption of hooch in Gujarat which follows a policy of total prohibition. 170 deaths were reported in the same year in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. An effective and multipronged offensive is called for to root out the evil and the social and administrative failings which encourage it. In Kerala, closure of more than half of the toddy shops and frequent raids by officers have checked the supply of spurious liquor to a considerable extent. State governments should ensure that licensed country liquor made under strict regulations is available. Former West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta had suggested the lowering of the price of licensed country liquor which may be some help in keeping poor people away from illicit liquor. But of prime importance is doing away with the nexus between politicians and powerful bootleggers.


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