PALAKKAD: With the reopening of a large number of bars and toddy shops, the flow of spirit is likely to go up in the coming months. At first sight, everything seems to be under control at the Excise check post at Walayar. “No large scale seizures of spirit has been reported from the Excise check post in Walayar in recent months,” Sajeev Nambiar, Excise circle inspector at the Walayar Excise check post, told Express. “There is enough staff at the check post number 28. In each shift, there is one inspector, three preventive officers and five civil excise officers,” he said.
However, it is an open secret spirit flows into the state through the porous border. The hooch is stocked in lorries and other vehicles and escorted by men on bikes on its journey to Kerala via country roads at the border. Transporters make use of several bylanes through coconut groves to evade the Excise check posts.
State secretary of the Toddy Tappers Federation K Sivan said in the run up to Onam, the flow of hooch is likely to go up. He also explained how the flow is connected to the ‘demand’ for toddy across the state.
As per the data of the Toddy Workers Welfare Board, there are 31,381 registered workers, including toddy collectors and sales staff, said Sivan. Unregistered workers account for 2,182 and the total number of shops stands at 4,578. At least 4,000 toddy shops are functioning and each one has to mandatorily maintain 50 trees and five workers, he said.
The contractors pay the tax for all trees although only half of them are tapped. “Eight hundred inter-division permits and 242 inter-range permits (for doing business within Palakkad District) have been issued to contractors. The tree tax for six months is Rs 30 per tree and the inter-divisional (district) permit collected is Re 1 per litre of toddy transported outside. The tree tax paid by inter-divisional permit contractors here amounts to Rs 52.41 lakh and Rs 74,513 is paid by inter-range permit contractors,” said an Excise officer.
Based on the tree tax collected, around 2.7 lakh litres have to be sent to other parts of the state daily, said Sivan. On the contrary, they send only half the quantity. “By paying tree tax and the inter-district permit fee of Re 1 per litre a day, they ‘convince’ officers they are tapping the palm trees. On the sly, they add spirit and sell it,” he said.