THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It seems the state has misjudged the ‘fighting spirit’ of tipplers in the state. The state government had recently hiked excise duty on liquor to raise additional funds for relief and rehabilitation of the flood-affected people. But the tipplers shot back the proposal of price hike by shifting to the brewing of illicit liquor. Creating a record of sorts, the Excise sleuths have seized over 3.5 lakh litres of wash this year, around half of which was made after the flood, while the average seizure was around 75,000 to one lakh litres in the previous years.
Speaking to Express, Excise Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh said the unprecedented rise in the seizure of wash from various parts of the state was mainly after the state enforced around 10 per cent hike in liquor prices in the event of the flood in order to raise fund for rebuilding and rehabilitation. “The rise in liquor prices seemed to have forced the tipplers to bootlegging, but the department promptly tightened the noose around illegal brewers. We have even arrested a teacher for brewing illicit liquor from Alappuzha and she is under judicial custody now,” he said.
According to the statistics available with the Excise Department, around 3.5 lakh litres of wash was seized by the sleuths this year, while the department had seized 1,124 litres arrack and 94,953 litres of wash in 2015-16 and 1,563 litres of arrack and 76,432 litres of wash in 2014-15. The department also registered as many as 8,316 Abkari cases from 2018 January to October 31, the highest in recent history.
The availability of brewing equipment online has made things easy for the tipplers, said another senior officer with the department. Earlier, if the high range areas and other places where enforcement activities were relatively less were prone to bootlegging, now tipplers are brewing illicit liquor even in flats in cities, he said.
Even though the cases attract rigorous imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs one lakh under Sections 55(A) and 55(I) of the Abkari Act, if found guilty, it is yet to act as a deterrent, if the rising cases are any indication. The combo of illicit liquor with wild meat is a popular cocktail among the tipplers, despite the availability of Indian and Foreign Made Foreign Liquors. The state government is also monitoring the sale of brewing equipment through online avenues, Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan told the Assembly.
‘Spirit’ fact files
Seized around 3.5 lakhs litres wash this year.
2014-15: 1,563 litres arrack and 76,432 litres wash seized.
2015-16: 1,124 litres arrack and 94,953 litres of wash seized.
Excise has registered as many as 8,316 Abkari cases from 2018 January to October 31