KULBEER SINGH ZIRA, the Congress legislator from Zira, may have been suspended by the party over his public outburst at alleged inaction against liquor contractors selling illicit alcohol, but his allegations seems to have spurred some action on the ground.
On January 16, Punjab Police sent all the sitting SHOs in Zira to the Police Lines while appointing new faces in their place. In police circles, being sent to Police Lines is considered a punishment.
In addition, the excise department carried out raids and seized 44 cartons of alcohol from liquor contractor Phurman Singh and his associates against whom Zira had complained. Zira had even alleged that IG Mukhwinder Singh Chhina was protecting Phurman Singh. Confirming the raids, HPS Ghotra, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Ferozepur, said, “We conducted raids at different places and seized about 44 cartons of liquor belonging to contractors Phurman Singh, Sumit Doda and their associates. Though duty was paid on the liquor, it was being sold at locations other than those licensed by the excise department. So due action as per excise law is being taken against the contractor”.
As per the sources in the excise department, Zira’s supporters had staged dharnas outside unathorised vends following which they had to conduct raids and get the sites closed. Six such unauthorised places were raided and closed, sources said.
Apart from this, SHO Sadar, Karamjeet Singh , has been transferred to Police Lines and Jatinder Singh has been appointed in his place. Also, Bhupinder Kaur has been posted as SHO (city) replacing Gurmail Singh, who too has been sent to Police :ines. Devinder Parkash of Mallanwala police station has been replaced by Harmaljit Singh. All the newly posted SHOs, however, called their transfers as routine but stressed that their focus will be to check drug supplies and liquor smuggling in the area.
It may be mentioned that Zira had been talking about such anamolies in his speech and had questioned the working of state government as well saying that sarpanches cannot take oath to make villages drug free while the “black sheep” roamed free.
Though Zira in his speech had mentioned that Phurman Singh was not named in the FIR regarding the seizure of liquor stock, sources in the excise department said that a review application has already been filed by the officials in Zira and Ferozepur court challenging the decision of police to cancel the FIRs without seeking clearance from excise department. It may be mentioned that on May 29, 2018 a raid was conducted in Zira where 1,160 cartons of liquor had been seized and an FIR with IPC 420, under Excise Act and other charges were lodged against Phurman Singh and his associates Sumit Doda, Anshu Babbar and Neeraj Kumar. This stock was duty paid but of previous financial year( 2017-18) on which carry forward duty, amounting to Rs 28.12 lakh, had not been paiod. On June 1, 2018, in yet another raid, a total of 2,124 cartons of IMFL were seized on which the carry forward duty was not paid. Duty amounting to more than a crore was pending on this stock, the excise department had said. Combined together, duty of more than Rs 1.28 crore is pending against the contractors, the excise department officials said.
It may be mentioned that when previous year’s unsold duty paid stock has to be added in the current financial year’s stock, a carry forward duty has to be paid apart from declaring the stock before the excise department. However, contractors had neither declared this old stock, nor paid the carry forward duty, as per the excise records.
Sources revealed that police had canceled the FIRs in both the cases and had approached court to seek cancellation orders when excise department stepped in. Ghotra said, “We filed review applications in Ferozepur as well as Zira courts in the second week of December with a plea that clearance was not sought from excise department by police before cancelling the FIRs. The matter is in court now. In Zira seizure case, next hearing is on February 6 while in Ferozepur seizure case, the next hearing is on February 5. Excise department had taken action well in time”.
Phurman Singh, when asked about the allegations made by Zira, said, “Zira himself is a big fraud and his men sell smuggled liquor from Haryana. I am in this business for more than 13 years and I have maintained records of each and every stock. Excise department had to file a review application out of political compulsion and on court hearing date, I will come out clean. I have paid all duties and nothing is pending”.
Regarding the recent raids, he said, “The department could not find anything wrong against me and conducted raids as a mere eye wash.”
Zira, meanwhile, is not in his constituency and was stated to be in Chandigarh. He could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. His personal assistant answered his phone calls and said that Zira was busy in urgent meetings.