I, Dipankan

The Horrors of Hooch

PTI Photo: Victims hospitalised in Assam in the recent hooch tragedy

Illegal consumption of spurious alcohol is consistently on the rise. Barely a week after the UP Hooch tragedy that claimed 116 lives, this time around, it is Assam. These breweries operate hideously, often as a ‘side’ product on factory premises. As far as reports go, 110+ have been reported dead- a casualty every 10 minutes!

Governmental promises to eradicate the illicit liquor mafia look like blunt proposals nowadays. In 1992, the Parthasarathy Committee Report suggested a smorgasbord of actions to be taken in order to prevent hooch horrors. Besides laws to discourage unauthorised storage of methanol, it recommended the addition of a bitter substance to make it undrinkable. In all, 17 recommendations were put on paper. Till date, it remains to be effectively implemented.

Last year, the Uttar Pradesh government amended a section in the State Excise Act, slapping death penalty charges on those responsible for hooch deaths. Despite such a move, a week back, disaster struck. This points to glaring loopholes, and most of this is due to the khaki-clad men looking the other way in exchange for hefty fees.

Yesterday, it was Maharashtra, Bengal, Bihar, UP, and countless many. Today it is Assam. Tomorrow, it may strike terror in yet another province. How far can we tolerate this? Can surprise raids in shadowy factories not be conducted? Is it altogether impossible for the government to catch the sinister bootleggers who manufacture the concoction of death, red-handed? The answer is a clear yes. Only, the intent is missing.

Every single time.

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