Just over a year after 102 lives were lost in a hooch tragedy in Mumbai, the state government has begun mapping illegal bootlegging hotspots across the state.
In a fresh bid to crack down on the sale of spurious liquor, the state excise department has started building a database on how and where illicit liquor trade takes place. The analysis report to chart out hotspots and notorious hooch makers is being conducted on the basis of cases detected in the past. Senior officials said the idea was to map these dens and subject those found to be in the hooch-making trade to intense scrutiny.
Sunil Chavan, Director, Enforcement and Vigilance, Maharashtra Excise, said that at present, district wise data is being collated. While some of the districts, including the island city of Mumbai, have already submitted the information, once data from the remaining districts arrive, the hotspots and the notorious elements who are part of the trade, would be put on a central console. “Our flying squads would keep a close watch on the activities of such elements,” said Chavan. “The data would also be shared with the police so that vigilance can be intensified in those areas,” he added.
Preliminary data shows that those in the bootlegging trade are mostly repeat offenders. “The punishment for the offence is not deterrent enough,” a senior official privy to the development, said. There are examples of cases in which bootleggars have been nabbed for the offence in the same locality over ten times, he said.
Sources also said that this was perhaps the first time in the country that such an exhaustive data-building exercise on the issue was being carried.
For instance, the data about island city reveals that slum colonies such as those in Worli, including Madraswadi, Mahatma Phule Nagar, Janata Colony, Mahakali Road, Motilal Nagar, Panchsheel Nahar near Sion’s Koliwada, Antop Hill’s Raoli Camp, and slum colonies near the Matunga Railway stations are hotspots for illegal breweries. “For all such areas across the state, the vigilance would be intensified. The intense scrutiny would also ensure that those patrolling such locations are constantly under watch,” said V Radha, excise commissioner. There is a plan to press for externment of repeat offenders, she said.
In Mumbai’s Malvani, 102 people had died after consuming illicit liquor last June. Even as the government had intensified action against the illegal trade following the incident, senior officials conceded that the trade was still rampant, accounting for 10-15 per cent of liquor consumption in Maharashtra. “We are also building a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with hooch tragedies to better government response even further,” said V Radha.