Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday directed police to crackdown on liquor smuggling, bootlegging and illicit distillation of liquor to protect the cash-strapped state from incurring any revenue loss due to such activities.
Amarinder ordered immediate action to be initiated against DSPs of sub-divisions and SHOs in whose areas such activity is seen taking place, and strict proceedings against any government officer/official found negligent or supporting any illegal activity in any manner relating to distillation/smuggling/distribution of liquor etc.
DGP Dinkar Gupta issued directives to all CPs and SSPs in the state to identify liquor smugglers/suppliers/bootleggers, district-wise and police station-wise, by May 23. The officers have been asked to take all possible legal action against such persons, including under relevant provisions of the Disaster Management and Epidemics Act etc.
The DGP said, “The chief minister had made it clear that due to acute economic and financial stress…the state government needs to mobilise all possible revenue. Thus it cannot afford any loss of revenue on account of smuggling of liquor from outside the state, or on account of illicit distillation of liquor or bootlegging.”
The DGP has directed the CPs and SSPs to have video conferences with their DSPs of sub-divisions and SHOs to make it clear that if any illegal liquor factory is found operational in their area of jurisdiction — as in Khanna and Rajpura recently — they will be liable to be shifted out and legal/departmental action initiated against them. They will also become ineligible for SHO and public dealing postings in the future.
All CPs and IGP/DIG ranges will send a monthly report, along with a DO letter, on the achievements of the districts falling in their jurisdiction in this regard, to ADGP law and order by the 5th of every month, said the DGP.
The CPs and SSPs have also been directed to remain in touch with the excise department officers and contractors for feedback. Any failure in this regard would be viewed very seriously, warned the DGP.
‘CM lying to people, fudging figures’
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday accused the CM of “lying to the people and fudging figures to show an increase in excise revenue during the Congress government’s first year in office even though it had caused consistently losses to the state exchequer as far as liquor tax collections were concerned for the last three years”.
It also expressed “grave concern at the blatant manner in which Congressmen were running illegal distilleries and indulging in bootlegging and demanded the immediate arrest of Congress legislators Madan Lal Jalalpur and Hardyal Singh Kamboj”.
Jalalpur and Kamboj were not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
The SAD also called for “immediate institution of a High Court monitored inquiry to look into the Rs 2,000 crore illicit liquor scam as well as the Rs 3,600 crore excise revenue loss suffered by the state in the last three years as per its own Cabinet ministers”.
“Punjabis want an independent probe into the Rs 5,600 crore liquor scam and the chief minister is duty bound to respect their wishes,” the party asserted.
Senior SAD leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema while addressing a press conference here, said, “The constitutional crisis which had arisen after Cabinet ministers questioned the authority of the executive, had deepened now with the chief minister and his Cabinet colleagues taking radically opposite views on the issue of excise loss.”
Asking the chief minister to “give the exact excise loss incurred in the last three years”, they also asked him “whether he would now take action against his Cabinet colleagues who had stated that the state had incurred an excise loss of Rs 3,600 crore in the last three years”.
They said that “the ministers on their part should tell whether they agreed with the chief minister’s assertion that instead of incurring any loss of excise the state had incurred an average increase of 1.6 per cent per year”.
“Both should explain their position as people want to know who is lying? The ministers or the chief minister?” said the Akali leaders.
The Akali leaders condemned Congress leaders for “looting the state treasury as well as endangering the lives of liquor consumers by serving them slow poison through illicit liquor manufactured by them using ethyl alcohol used for sanitisers”.
They said “the inaction of the state government was giving an impression that it was hand in glove with the liquor mafia which was being run by Congressmen”.
“There can be no other reason for not arresting Congress MLAs Madan Lal Jalalpur and Hardyal Kamboj for running an illegal distillery through their most trusted aides or taking action against top Congress leaders of Khanna who are accused of patronising an illegal distillery,” said the Akali leaders.
The SAD leaders debunked the chief minister’s assertion that the Congress government had collected an excise revenue of Rs 5,100 crore in its first year in office in 2017-18. They said, “The CM should have told the complete truth and given details that as much as Rs 400 crore from this amount had been recovered from liquor contractors as license fee for the previous financial year (2016-17) during SAD-BJP tenure…it was also a truth that excise revenue had increased by an average of 12.5 per cent year on year during SAD-BJP tenure even as the Congress government was claiming a 1.6 per cent year on year increase only.”
Dera Bassi legislator N K Sharma, who also addressed the media, said he had “carried out a live sting from the Zirakpur sale point of the Ghanour illegal distillery” claiming “illicit liquor was being sold openly”. He said he had also talked to the AETC concerned on May 2 but on action was taken in the matter. He alleged that “one set of Congmen were running distilleries and the other were selling the illicit liquor”.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines