Massive fish escape

Sadly, all the spirited claims and declarations of getting to the bottom of the illegal distillery in Punjab’s Ghanaur unearthed around this time last year are coming to a naught, with the probe apparently fizzling out. While the high-profile case did rustle up the stench of a booze scam featuring politicians, officials and criminals, it turns out that the hope it evoked of the culprits being finally bottled up was just as vaporous as the fake liquor (using extra neutral alcohol and lahan) being poured into bottles of country liquor brands for sale to the unsuspecting consumer. As most investigations into criminal activities involving a deeply embedded lucrative nexus of politicians and highly placed government authorities go, this one too has been tardy and shoddy.

It comes as little surprise that the sharpness expected of SITs comprising policemen and excise and Enforcement Directorate officials, intent upon nailing the big fish of the flourishing illicit liquor trade, is conspicuous by its absence. Most actions to clean up the rot that has set in the thriving illegal liquor sector have been limited to raiding or sealing units and the rounding up of small fry. The law enforcement authorities are once again headed to losing (deliberately?) a chance to identify those pocketing crores of rupees by evading excise duty and thus sinking the empty coffers of the state further.

Worse, as spurious and deadly brew continues to be produced and marketed with impunity, the lives of the alcohol-loving public of Punjab remain endangered. The Majha liquor tragedy of last August in which 110 people had died in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Batala had elicited righteous horror and clamour — by both the public and rival political groups — for an end to the lethal racket that all knew was flourishing under political patronage. It is time that the authorities concerned and those holding the reins of power are scalped for hoodwinking the public and wasting resources and manpower in ‘fake’ and doomed probes and investigations. No more lives should be sacrificed at the altar of the greed of well-networked criminals.

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