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Supply shield against death

Patna, Dec. 12: The excise department officials think uninterrupted supply of country spirits could only prevent hooch tragedy, which claimed 32 lives in Ara and Gaya since Saturday.

Sandeep Poundrik, the excise department principal secretary, said the department should ensure a regular supply of country-made liquor so that people are not pulled into buying spirit from illegal dealers. “The department is planning to deal with the menace and on Thursday, there will be a meeting with all superintendents of police and district magistrates via video-conferencing. The department, besides going for regular raids, has to ensure that the supply of liquor, whether country-made or foreign, is regular in all shops. Moreover, if any district faces such a tragedy, strict disciplinary action will be initiated against the entire excise department officials responsible for the area,” Poundrik said.

However, sources pointed out the department’s mismanagement about awarding contracts for manufacturing country-made liquor to new people who did not have the required infrastructure.

“The department on November 26 had changed the contractors involved in manufacturing country spirit. Altogether, 17 people entered into fresh agreements with the department starting from December 1 till March 31, 2014. Among the 17, most of the contractors are new. The department obviously had the information about the shortcomings of the new contractors and could have easily asked the earlier contractors to continue for at least a month till the new ones set up their infrastructure,” an excise department official said.

Sources said “Spicy” used to manufacture country liquor in Ara where the tragedy hit first last Saturday. “The fresh contract went into the hands of a new company, MJ and Sons Distillery, but it could not start with the manufacturing process. Once there is a shortage in supply, illicit liquor flows into the market making habitual drinkers prone to buying the stuff,” an official of the department said.

According to rule, manufactured legal liquor in the distilleries goes to Bihar State Beverages Corporation Limited, a state government undertaking, which started its operations in October 2006 as the main depot from where the retailers purchase country spirit.

In fact, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said country liquor in pouches would not be sold anymore and the same would be replaced by sealed bottles so that chances of spurious liquor supply is reduced. Even on Tuesday, during his junta durbar, Modi said a blanket ban on liquor sale was not a solution to the problem. “One has to clamp down on the sale of illegal liquor. It is the spurious liquor that kills people. In Gujarat, liquor is discreetly sold in spite of a ban,” Modi said.