Bacchus, the Roman god of intoxication, has found ardent followers in Jamshedpur.
Mocking lessons on moderation, steel city residents have hit the binge mode in the run-up to the festive season, catalysing a 15 per cent increase in excise revenues between April and September this year.
Confirming brisk booze business, Jharkhand excise assistant commissioner Rakesh Kumar said against an IMFL sales target of 42 lakh bulk litres (BL) for the 2013-14 fiscal, the city had gulped down 30 lakh BL till September 20.
Similarly, the excise department’s Singhbhum circle had set a beer sales target of 36 lakh BL for the current fiscal, but 20 lakh BL were sold in the past five months alone.
According to Kumar, the boom in liquor business is not just because of a wider consumer base, but also because of continuous raids on illegal brewers and busting of country liquor manufacturing units in and around the steel city.
“Between April and September, we registered 149 cases against illicit liquor manufacturers and sellers. We seized over 2,000 litres of hooch and earned Rs 2 lakh as penalty from liquor rogues. The upswing in sales is a cumulative effect of all these measures,” the assistant excise commissioner, who also monitors the business in Seraikela-Kharsawan and West Singhbhum, said.
Another senior excise department official said random raids were conducted in and around the steel city almost every day. “Several illegal distilleries were destroyed along the foothills of Dalma and Subernareka and Kharkai rivers,” he said, adding that the sustained campaign left tipplers with little choice but to buy their pints from authorised IMFL shops.
Rapid urbanisation is perhaps another reason behind increased sale of liquor. Satpal Singh, who owns a liquor shop in Sakchi, confirmed that over-the-counter sales were going north in city areas. “Boozing has become a trend among young residents of the city. Even teens are turning up to buy beer,” he said.
Kumar conceded that there was no provision of issuing liquor permits to buyers in Jamshedpur or elsewhere in the state. “Outlets have been instructed against selling liquor to underage persons and employing minor salesmen. In case of doubt regarding the age of a buyer, the outlet owner can ask for an age proof,” he said.
If the excise department is glowing pink with health, tipplers are risking their own.
According to IMA statistics, 150 residents are dying of cirrhosis of liver and another 200 of liver cancer every year.
So, swig but safely.