Differently abled persons surviving on alms have turned to bootlegging in Bihar, police have found after arresting two of them in Madbhubani district.
A police team on Saturday arrested two such men - visually impaired Sabbir, alias Ismael, and leprosy patient Ram Narayan - on the charge of smuggling liquor. Sabbir would beg on trains to New Delhi and ferry liquor bottles back to Madhubani district on the side.
He told interrogators that he used to hand over the bottles to his associate, Ram Narayan, who would then provide the contraband to their clients.
"Nobody could suspect Sabbir, a visually impaired person, to be involved in the illegal trade of bootlegging. He would beg on trains and beggars would be the last person anybody will suspect," said Benipatti sub-divisional police officer Nirmala Kumari, who played an important role in busting the new breed of bootleggers in Madhubani district.
Nirmala said Sabbir, a resident of Patauna police station area, entered the lucrative business about three months ago. "Sabbir turned to bootlegging as he wanted to make a lot of money in a short span. He used to get Rs 100 on every bottle as commission," she quoted Sabbir as saying.
"The demand of alcohol is high in the area. So many beggars are involved in the illegal trade," Sabbir purportedly told the interrogators.
Both Sabbir and Ram Narayan used to ferry the liquor bottles in plastic containers. While two bottles were seized from the house of Ram Narayan, 76 bottles were seized during the raid on Sabbir's village in Patauna. Sub-divisional police officer Nirmala said both the men were produced before the local court on Saturday, which remanded them to 14-day judicial custody. "I was taken aback when I received information that differently abled people are being lured by the liquor mafia," Nirmala told The Telegraph.
During investigation, the police found beggars from the border districts of Kishanganj, Araria, West Champaran, East Champaran and Sitamarhi were being hired by the liquor mafia to carry out their business. "Beggars are considered safe for transporting liquor," said a superintendent of police posted in a north Bihar district.
Senior officials in the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which had been deployed to guard the porous India-Nepal border, said physically challenged beggars were carried by fellow beggars in wooden carts, as they hide liquor and hence evade detection by wearing false bandages and acting as leprosy patients. "As the SSB personnel are reluctant to check such beggars, it becomes easier for the liquor mafia to carry out their business in the border districts," said a commandant of the central paramilitary force deployed in Sitamarhi district close to the India-Nepal border.
The commandant said a beggar identified as Sanichra was arrested from Raxaul a few months ago, and he admitted to earning something between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 a day by smuggling alcohol from Nepal.