MUMBAI: Police conducting raids in slums as well as forests in Palghar district were stunned when they “discovered” what they hadn’t even imagined-- two women were running the illicit liquor mafia which came in to the spotlight following the hooch tragedy that has so far claimed 102 lives in Malad.
The arrested duo, Agnes Gracy(50) and Mamata Rathod (30), have spilled the beans on their modus operandi, supply network and caretakers.
Police seized a large quantity of methanol, spirit and other materials used to brew spurious liquor.
However, this isn’t the first time women’s involvement in the illegal liquor trade has come to light. Two other arrested suspects, Francis D’Souza and Salim Sheikh, too have named a woman from Vasai as the hooch provider. They admitted they used to purchase 10 litres of hooch from the still-to-be identified woman and mix it with 15 litres of methanol.
A police official cited the case of a sexagenarian hooch seller from Virar, popularly called “Mavshi”(Marathi for maternal aunt). She buys liquor from local producers and sells it at a price-- Rs 20 for a 180 ml pouch,which is cheaper than the price of the government-approved country liquor, Rs 45 for 180 ml, according to the official.
Construction workers, labourers and rickshaw drivers are the main customers of this locally made hooch.
Investigations have unearthed a liquor syndicate spread across the district. On an average, 500 litres of hooch is manufactured daily in Bhayander, Naigaum, Vasai and Virar areas -- all a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the city. A 200-litre drum is used to ferry the liquor locally. After the demand from the local market is met, the liquor is transported to the city in rubber tubes.
“An isolated island between Naigaum and Bhayander called Panju, accessible only by boat, is a hooch hotspot. Lathi-wielding policemen dare not go there as the liquor mafia possesses arms,” an officer said.
Police raided some of the hooch dens two months ago but the illegal activities have since resumed.
“Of course, it cannot be possible unless bribe is paid. The bribe may run into several lakh rupees per month,” the officer added. State Excise Minister Eknath Khadse said the government was thinking of applying the stringent Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act.