There is no denying the fact that festivals and alcohol go hand in hand. Sources said all traditional country liquor-producing villages like Koranga, Ichhapur, Viruda and Achalakot on the outskirts of Athagarh town are preparing liquor in huge quantity to cater to the festival demand.
And to check the consumption of liquor and its illegal trade, the Balasore administration has adopted an innovative idea.
The puja committee members in Balasore district have to swear by “I promise in the name of Maa Durga that I won’t take alcohol during the three-day Dussehra festival and the immersion procession” in front of Goddess Durga on Monday.
This novel idea has been adopted by the police administration as part of the campaign ‘Say no to alcohol’. Officials hope this attempt would bring some change among the puja organisers.
Though the liquor shops are declared closed during the festival days, the traders allegedly operate from secret places and supply huge quantity of both foreign and country-made liquor in connivance with the excise and police officials. For the liquor traders festivals like Dussehra and Diwali are business time.
Officially, the district has 12 IMFL off-shops, three beer parlours, 38 country spirit shops, three toddy shops and one bottling plant.
It has one depot each of Odisha State Beverages Corporation (OSBC) and country spirit (CS). Besides, there are four canteens and one club having liquor licence.
In the current financial year so far, the Excise Department has registered 319 cases across the district for illegal selling and manufacturing of liquor while altogether 313 persons have been arrested.
Besides, it is learnt that there are scores of illegal liquor shops in the district and over a dozen bootlegging units, which prepare liquor in huge quantity to meet the requirement of the festival crowd.
Last year two such units had been unearthed under Khantapada and Nilagiri police limits.
In-charge Excise Superintendent Pinaki Patnaik said three special squads comprising six officials each have been formed for surprise raids and put a check on illegal liquor trade during the festival.