Jorhat, Oct. 20: Abakash Majuli, an NGO involved in socio-cultural and development activities in the Brahmaputra island, has demanded the setting up of an excise department office and posting of staff in Majuli to prevent smuggling of liquor to the island.
The NGO has demanded the deployment of security personnel in the eight ghats to check liquor smuggling from the mainland, on both sides of the Brahmaputra, Jorhat in the south and Lakhimpur in the north, and selling it at high prices.
There is no liquor shop in Majuli as the government has not granted licence to open outlets to sell liquor, keeping in view the presence of a large number of Vaishnavite xatras (monasteries) that propagate the Vaishnavite culture founded by the 15th century saint-scholar, poet, playwright, and socio-religious reformer Srimanta Sankardev.
Abakash Majuli president Amlandeep Borah told this correspondent today that recently there has been an increase in cases of liquor being smuggled in huge quantities to the island.
Borah said there has also been an increase in the number of people visiting Majuli in the past few years after the island’s unique art and culture has come to the fore at the national and international level, following the government’s attempts to get Majuli included in the list of World Heritage List.
He said in view of the flow of tourists going up there has been a rise in the number of lodges and resorts in Majuli and some unscrupulous elements were smuggling in liquor from the mainland. Borah said some people were also selling traditional brew prepared by the different communities residing in the island, which, too, was prohibited as the commercial production and sale of any local brew is illegal in Majuli.
Accusing the administration of not taking the matter seriously, the president of the NGO said, “If things continue this way then the situation might make the island like Goa which could be a threat to the existence of the distinct culture of Majuli.” He said such an environment could lead to various types of crimes being committed here, which would bring a bad name to the religious-cultural hub.
“Last night, local youths recovered eight cartons of IMFL from a shop at Goalgaon near Garmur which they handed over to the police,” he said.
Borah said the NGO submitted a memorandum to the Majuli sub-divisional administration last week seeking the setting up of a full-fledged excise office in Majuli, with adequate staff posted to carry out drives against smuggling and sale of liquor.
At present, the excise department in Majuli has posted only one person, who is attached with the Majuli SDO (civil) office. Deployment of police force and vigil at the ghat was also sought in the memorandum.
Excise deputy superintendent (Jorhat) Atul Khanikar said the department was considering setting up a permanent office in the island with adequate employees to check illegal ferrying and sale of liquor in view of the changing situation.
Excise staff has to be given support by the police force, as excise officials do not have firearms. Police personnel have to be taken along to conduct raids. The excise officer said it would take about three months to allot a team and an office for Majuli.
Majuli executive magistrate Damodar Barman said over phone from the island that the sub-divisional administration has been acting upon the complaints received regarding the sale of liquor.