GUWAHATI: A section of Excise employees are under the department’s radar for not acting against the illicit liquor business in upper Assam. The roaring illicit liquor business in the upper Assam districts has come to such a pass that State Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya had to warn a section of Excise officers.
A year has gone by after the infamous hooch tragedy took over 100 lives, mainly tea garden labourers, in Golaghat. After the tragedy, the Excise Act was strengthened to empower the Excise officers in taking drastic measures for stopping the business of illicit liquor (sulai). However, even after the tragedy and amendment to the Act, some racketeers in cahoots with a section of Excise officials have been carrying out the roaring business of illicit liquor. The situation has prompted the Commissioner, Excise, at the directive Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, to issue a warning to the DSEs (District Excise Superintendents) and inspectors of Tinsukia, Dibruagarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Charaideo districts. He said, “Despite repeated instructions, action against sulai hasn’t been taken in your district… Inspectors and DSEs concerned are under watch; and action will be taken for willful negligence.”
The ACMS (Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha) is also worried over the unabated illicit liquor business mainly in the tea estate (TE) areas of upper Assam. Talking to The Sentinel, ACMS general secretary Rupesh Goala said, “Even after a year of the Golaghat hooch tragedy, the illicit liquor business has not been brought under control in the tea estates of upper Assam. Our demand is to declare the TEs as dry zones. Unavailability of illicit liquor will certainly bring down liquor consumption among the garden workers. From our end, we’re continuously holding awareness camps. However, we cannot use force to stop them drinking. From this year, we’re going to observe March 17 as the ‘Anti-liquor Day’ in all the tea garden areas.”
A source in the State Excise department said, “We’ve given more teeth to the Excise Act so as to empower the Excise superintendents and inspectors. Unlike its earlier version, the amended Act has given them power to arrest a guilty person and put him/her behind bars. We’ve asked them to keep watch on anyone buying laligur (a form of molasses) in bulk. Legally, laligur is used for human consumption or as animal feed. Illegally it is used in brewing illicit liquor. We’re going to act tough against any of the officers found to have nexus with illicit liquor breweries.”