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CIMA Gallary

A year on, hooch flows in death den

Mograhat, Dec. 14: Ekramul Mollah, 28, of Mograhat’s Gayanpara does not think twice before buying a pouch of illicit liquor from a local grocer at the end of a day’s work.

“A pouch of hooch is a must for me after a hard day’s labour. I won’t stop drinking till I die,” the fruit seller said.

This day last year, 174 people had died after drinking hooch in South 24-Parganas’ Mograhat and its adjoining areas, but not much has changed since then. Illicit liquor is still sold rampantly in the 40 villages spread across Mograhat, Mandirbazar and Usthi.

In Jhinkirhatpara village, 5km from Gayanpara, cycle van-puller Habibul Mollah said he brought a hooch pouch every day for Rs 15 from a stationary shop.

Villagers alleged a “nexus” between police and illicit liquor traders, as a result of which the trade was flourishing. They accused political leaders of patronising the illegal trade.

“Policemen are aware of the clandestine sale of hooch from stationery shops and tea stalls. But they are turning a blind eye to it because they take money from the suppliers,” said Sabir Ali Khan, 55, a Mograhat resident. “Local political leaders do nothing to stop the menace for financial gains,” he added.

An excise official said though no new liquor dens had come up in the area in the past one year, illicit liquor was supplied in bulk from Kulpi, Usthi, Sagar Island and Bishnupur.

“We have arrested 60 people for selling hooch and seized 2.5 lakh litres of illicit liquor in the past one year. But one cannot stop the clandestine sale,” he said.

District magistrate N.S. Nigam said vigil on the stationery shops would be intensified. “I will ask the police to intensify raids on stationery and grocery shops, tea stalls and roadside hotels,” he said.

Giasuddin Mollah, the minister of state for minority affairs and local Trinamul MLA, denied knowledge of the hooch trade.

However, Trinamul sources blamed the minister’s “lack of supervision” for the continuance of the trade.