Assam flooded with ‘Made in Arunachal Pradesh’ liquor
GUWAHATI: The smuggling of illegal liquor from nearby state of Arunachal Pradesh is getting worrisome as per Assam State Excise Minister, Parimal Suklabaidya. The excise department has conducted multiple raids and operations that has resulted in seizure of thousands of bottles of liquor and a large number of vehicles. Massive amount of this illegal liquor from Arunachal Pradesh has been seized from places like Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Cachar, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Sonitpur.
The minister recently acknowledged in the Autumn Session of the Assam Assembly that an illegal trade of liquor made in Arunachal Pradesh does exist. This has also resulted in loss to a lot of revenue to the state. As per government records almost 33,958 cartons of liquor made in Arunachal have been seized so far from various parts of the state. The total value of the seized liquor would be Rs. 5,07,62,691.
The state government has tried all means to restrict this illegal trade but to no avail. Regular operations have been undertaken to capture the vehicles carrying illegal liquor. The Assam excise department has blamed the Arunachal excise department for showing a lackadaisical attitude towards the traders. Many of the seized trucks had transit passes and it was surprising that they passed right under the nose of the excise department. Inter-departmental coordination among the excise, police and administration is the need of the hour to restrict this illegal trade.
Interestingly, the state government has no data on how much revenue the state of Assam is losing due to this illegal liquor trade. Even the minister has agreed to not knowing on what exactly is the impact that this trade is having on the state exchequer. There have been serious allegations that a nexus exists between high-level excise department officials and the police department who are patronising this business. Without the help of the police and the excise department this trade cannot flourish and there are also allegations that trade partnership goes all the way to Arunachal Pradesh from where the liquor comes.
As per reports, most of the liquor is consumed in parts of upper Assam which has a robust demand for liquor from Arunachal Pradesh. Liquor is also sold in black and peddled by numerous dhabas and eateries on the highways of Assam. These dhabas charge a little bit extra on the price and sell it to their customers. The preferred bottles sold in dhabas are the 180 ml ones as it is easier to carry and conceal them. The rate of liquor made in Arunachal Pradesh is lower than in Assam due to tax relaxations and other factors which make it a viable proposition for illegal liquor smugglers. For the low rung customers, getting alcohol at a lower price is always a preferable option.
Plastic bottles and fake labels
There is a practice of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) being packed in plastic bottles in Arunachal Pradesh. The durability of a plastic container makes them a good choice for smuggling through inter-states. The excise department in its raids have recovered a lot of fake labels, bottles and caps. This points towards illegal re-packaging, re-labelling and selling the liquor being brought from Arunachal Pradesh here in the state.
‘Banderdewa Check Gate’
The trade route for the transport of illegal liquor is via Banderdewa in Lakhimpur District of Assam from where the consignments get entry. Banderdewa which is the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh has become the main nerve centre from where the trucks laden with illegal liquor make their way to different parts of the state and also to other states of northeast. There have been instances where police in states like Bihar and Punjab have confiscated liquor stamped ‘to be sold in Arunachal Pradesh only’ in their respective states. Also known popularly as the ‘check gate’, Banderdewa is the place from where this illegal liquor trade can be restricted if the Assam government is willing.
Though the state government has set up enforcement points at several places like Banderdawa, Orang, Kaliabor Tinali and Numaligarh Tinali, but the flow of liquor has not stopped. Right now, it seems the government is presenting a helpless attitude and hence there is no guarantee that this illegal trade is going to stop any time soon.