No more hooch tragedies: How to do it?
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No more hooch tragedies: How to do it?

Dr Navanil Barua | March 10, 2019 11:18 hrs


In the previous issue of G Plus (Vol 6 Issue 19 dated Mar 02 – Mar 08, 2019 I had tried to analyse the main causes of the Golaghat hooch tragedy and had also discussed various reactions to the same on social media. Some of these were: Excise minister should resign. Alcohol should be banned in Assam. Government must own responsibility and pay compensation. Why pay compensation to drunkards? How can people make fun of deceased by calling them drunkards? 


Government is earning huge revenues and letting people die. The incident is a conspiracy against the government. Tea tribes are different kind of people (sic)! Each such reaction was analysed in detail and I ended the piece hoping to find some solutions to such incidents in this week’s piece. 


So now, where does the solution lie? The answer is: It lies with us - the society. 


Over the past twenty years, illegality has found acceptance like never before in our state. Call them syndicates, call them cartels. Almost all politicians, organisation leaders are filthy rich without disclosing any valid source of the wealth. They do not shudder to flaunt their wealth at any time. The worst part is that they are none the worse for that. We seem to accept, idolise these goons and actually look up to them. We do not feel ashamed that we sell our votes, we do not feel indignant that corruption is institutionalised. As a result, this tribe thrives. What has happened in Golaghat and Titabar is an illustration of my statement. These outlets couldn't have been born, developed and flourished without the patronage of the police, excise department and different xongothons (organisations). Proof of that is the fact that the very next day of the tragedy, excise and police destroyed many such outlets across the state. How on earth could they have received complaints, investigated, identified and acted within 24 hours if they had no pre-intimation? 


Politicians today have no choice but to be corrupt because it costs more than a crore of rupees to fight an assembly election. This boils down to Rs 1.7 lakhs a month for 5 years. On top of this, every month, for donations, an MLA spends about Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 10 lakhs per month. Hence, besides his/her salary, he/she needs anywhere between Rs 5 lakhs to Rs 12 lakhs of bribes and illegal money every month. To earn this, he has to indulge in transfer/postings, syndicates and collection gates etc. For that, the local policeman, the local excise man, xongothons, District Transport Officer, supply inspector etc all have to be his henchmen. 


In a state where the police chief is a man of absolute financial integrity, most of his underlings are corrupt sans a select few. Most of them are corrupt by compulsion too as they have to supply to higher ups and political bosses for protection and for transfer postings. Same is the case with excise. 


When you have corrupt ministers, MLAs, xongothon leaders, police, excise officials, we are bound to have the Berias, Agarwallas and Guptas working as hooch lynchpins. Whatever we do, unless we stop electing corrupt leaders, tragedies of this magnitude or lesser will keep on happening in different places and in different forms. 


If the society and the government are really keen to see that Golaghat and Titabor doesn't do an encore, all it needs to do is to find out how many complaints were made to or received by excise and police about these dens. The next step is to pinpoint which officers refused to act on these complaints. Then identify under what compulsion these enforcers failed to act against the illegal hooch dens. Take the case up to the whole chain of offenders however high a position they may be in. 

 


Unfortunately, such actions can never happen. The director general of police is helpless. The excise minister must have his own compulsions. Otherwise, why arrest only employees of these Guptas, Agarwallas and Berias when they owned and traded in that jaggery godowns? Why not find out why and how they ran the business of jaggery in such huge volumes? 


Sorry people, nothing is going to change. You and the media shall go into amnesia regarding the whole incident. We are reacting because close to 200 died. We are still not counting the blinded and maimed victims of this hooch tragedy.


(The author is a neuro-surgeon by profession and a socio-political activist by choice)

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