The state excise department has roped in civilians to gather information on the illegal sale of alcohol and sale of country liquor with the launch of a new helpline. A WhatsApp number — 8422001133 — has been made operational last weekend for the public to send in complaints.
The excise department has urged the public to come forward and name persons and locations where alcohol is being sold illegally, apart from details of vehicles used to transport alcohol and places of storage. “We hope that the helpline will help us monitor the state borders a lot more effectively. Currently, a lot of liquor manufactured in Goa, Daman & Diu, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana is being illegally transported into Maharashtra. This affects our revenue,” said a senior excise department official.
Once a complaint is received on the helpline, the official added, it will be verified by the department before an action is initiated. “We do not expect that each complaint received will be completely accurate or will contain actionable information. Hence, we will carry out our own verification process,” the officer said. With time, the excise department also hopes that the helpline spreads into slum areas in the city, which record the maximum sale of country liquor.
“We are confident that people living in slum areas will eventually come forward to complain about the brewing and sale of country liquor. It will help us prevent incidents like the one in Malwani last year,” the officer said. A total of 106 people had died in Malwani in June last year after drinking consuming country liquor mixed with lethal chemicals.
The helpline is also expected to bolster the short-staffed department, which has very few officers deployed on the field. “The help and cooperation of the public is vital to keep a control on the sale of illegal alcohol,” the officer said.