Stealing, smuggling, buying liquor at premium during lockdown

Lucknow/Hyderabad/Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram, April 9 (IANS) Lockdown days have been tough for people across the states in terms of movement, food and grocery. The days have been tougher for those looking for their daily stock of liquor. How do they manage?

Tightened security may have made liquor smuggling difficult, but the availability is coming at a premium in several places. Wine shops are being looted while some innovators don't mind using milk cans or vegetable-laden vehicles to smuggle in the bottles.

In Uttar Pradesh, since the lockdown began on March 22 with the Janata Curfew, only a few people have been arrested for liquor smuggling. According to police sources, barely a dozen persons have been arrested in various districts for smuggling liquor during the lockdown.

Two persons were arrested on April 1 in the Para locality in Lucknow, who were working as carriers in the liquor smuggling racket. The third accomplice managed to escape. Two crates of liquor were recovered from their possession with 96 pouches of country liquor.

On Wednesday, in the Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh, thieves broke into a liquor shop and decamped with liquor worth lakhs of rupees. The incident took place at Alinagar where the thieves broke into the shop from the rear gate.

“They remained in the shop for more than half an hour and took away bottles of liquor and also the cash kept in a drawer,” said Avadesh Jaiswal, the shop owner. The thieves did not realise that the CCTV cameras were working even though the shop was closed in the lockdown. The entire robbery has been captured on the CCTV cameras and is now going viral on the social media.

A senior Uttar Pradesh police official said that smuggling of liquor is not being done at a large scale during the lockdown period because of the intensive checking.

“Moreover, most people do not consume liquor during the ‘Navratri' period and in the lockdown, we are searching and questioning everyone who is on the road. So the possibility of liquor smuggling is almost negligible,” he said.

However, regular consumers of liquor in Uttar Pradesh claim that their favourite brand is easily available in the state capital, though at a premium. A bottle of Royal Stag that is normally sold for Rs 600, is available at Rs 1,600 while Blenders' Pride that is priced at Rs 800 is being sold for Rs 2,200-Rs 2,400. Though liquor shops are shut from the outside, sources said that liquor was being freely made available to ‘known customers' from the rear side.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, no consolidated figures of the number of people arrested and cases booked by the excise department were available. However, both the states have reported sporadic incidents of sale of liquor during the lockdown.

In some cases, the owners of the liquor shops were found violating the rules. For instance in Hyderanagar area in Hyderabad, police raided a liquor outlet that was operating illegally during the lockdown. The owner of the shop was arrested and over 100 liquor bottles were seized.

Liquor bottles worth Rs 26,000 stolen from a wine shop in Gandhi Nagar area. The wine shop owner complained to police that the offender drilled a hole and committed the burglary.

Excise department booked three cases of illegal sale of “gudumba” or illicit liquor in the Dhoolpet area of Hyderabad.

In Mahabubnagar district of Telangana, excise police seized alcohol worth Rs 31,000 and arrested three persons for procuring the alcohol from Goa.

In Khammam town of Telangana, police seized liquor bottles worth Rs three lakh and took a wine shop owner into custody for illegally selling the liquor.

People in other parts of Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts complained that some wine shop owners are illegally selling the liquor bottles for three times more than MRP and even transporting it to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh police seized liquor bottles worth Rs 40,000 and a car from two persons transporting it from Bhadrachalam town of Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.

In Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, police seized 2,370 bottles concealed in milk cans. In Anantapur district, police arrested three people for illegally transporting 240 bottles of liquor from Bengaluru by hiding it in a truck carrying tomatoes.

In Tamil Nadu, six persons were arrested for breaking into state owned Tasmac liquor shops in Tiruvallur district. Three Tasmac employees were arrested for trying sell liquor in Madurai.

In Kerala, the Excise department has so far arrested more than a dozen people who were engaged in illicit distilling. The officials confiscated and later destroyed about 3,000 litres of raw materials, which is used to make illicit liquor.



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