The Bihar government has decided to make chowkidars responsible for providing information to local police stations on sale and consumption of liquor after the Rohtas hooch deaths.
Liquor consumption and sale is banned in Bihar.
The chowkidars are government watchmen at the panchayat level. Police station in-charges have already been made accountable for illegal liquor consumption, manufacturing, sale and distribution in their areas.
The government has taken the decision after facing embarrassment at regular reports of consumption and sale, mostly of countrymade liquor.
In the hooch case in Rohtas, four people died after consuming spurious liquor.
A home department circular issued on November 3 by government under-secretary Ranjan Kumar Sinha said since chowkidars played an important role in monitoring law and order at the village level, they will have to be “fully attentive to know storage, distribution, sale and consumption of liquor in their areas and inform local police stations. Not doing so would be taken as an act of negligence… If any incident of hiding information from police comes to light, disciplinary and legal action would be taken against chowkidars,” the circular said.
There are about 8,000 chowkidar posts in the state but 2,500 are vacant.
Though there has been no organised protest against the government’s decision, several chowkidars are against the government order.
“We are taken as last unit of gathering intelligence but we are given so many responsibilities, right from guarding villages in the night to help police identify any crime suspect and watch their movement, it would be very difficult to detect all liquor cases as liquor can be imported from neighbouring districts and are being manufactured by many methods, at times in riverine belts,” said a chowkidar from a Rohtas village.
A senior police officer at the police headquarters, however, said: “It is a matter of accountability at every level. A chowkidar is the prime source of information and a sense of accountability and fear of disciplinary action will make him more responsible.”