Nagpur: Depicting a different picture, the crime graph in Nagpur Division’s Chandrapur District nosedived in an ‘alarming speed’ since the past 6-8 months. The reason is different as well. The anti-social elements of hardened and novice class including ‘educated and uneducated unemployed,’ who were involved in crimes of all nature, have turned their focus towards greener postures. These elements have jumped into another lucrative business – bootlegging. No need to mention that prohibition is in force in Chandrapur District.
The margin of profit in bootlegging is so ‘mouth watering’ that no ‘elements’ think of involving themselves in other business. The situation is ‘pleasant’ for both the police administration and the businessmen in liquor trade. For the pockets are getting ‘heavier and heavier’ with every passing day. And those who proclaimed prohibition in the district too are busy – in patting their own backs for one reason or the other.
It is pertinent to recall that during Assembly election campaign trail, certain Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had promised to bring Chandrapur District under prohibition or say make the region ‘Dry’ if the party comes to power. And as soon as the party was brought to the power, the State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who hails from Chandrapur, fulfilled his promise by announcing enforcement of prohibition in the district with effect from April 1, 2015. A GR was formally issued as well in this regard.
But the scenario is not so ‘cheerful’ as it depicts to be believed. The words “For every prohibition you create, you also create an underground” are coming true in one sense or the other.
Sources say that that the prohibited Chandrapur District has emerged as ‘hot destination’ for bootleggers. It is alleged that stocks and stocks of country as well as foreign liquor is being ‘exported’ the dry region almost daily. It is also learnt that the big fish in the trade in fact deploy ‘patrolling squads’ ahead of the ‘liquor transporting vehicles’ to clear any hurdles. While the show goes on, the law enforcement personnel too run with hand in glow with the ‘traders.’ With the ‘sly deal’ the pockets of cops too get fat.
Sources further revealed that the sale of liquor in Chandrapur District has, in fact, increased since the prohibition came into force on April 1. The prohibition paved the way for extra income to police department and other district administration babus. A bottle of any liquor brand is now being sold on premium. Naturally, all are getting ‘benefited’ except the ‘cheers’ shouters, said sources.
The ‘export-import’ business of liquor is not indulged in only by the bootleggers but also by students travelling up and down with stocks of 90 ml bottles or so placed safely in their back bags and exchanging hands in dry region. Young men doing marketing jobs too do not lag behind in the business. All these guys earn Rs 500-1000 almost daily, of course slyly.
Transportation of liquor is done by bootleggers not only in usual vehicles. The least suspected ambulances come handy as well for the hardened bootleggers, said the sources.
It is further learnt that once the stuff reaches the dry destination the cost too reaches to premium. A 90 ml bottle (nip in market parlance) of Rs 150 fetches a premium price of Rs 300 for the traders. This very factor of easy and lot of money in bootlegging, it seems, has probably kept the anti-social elements away from indulging other crimes of various kind. Not surprising some of the police stations are ‘deprived’ of complaints of routine crimes.
The bootlegging is thriving at such a magnitude that many elements from Nagpur and Wardha having other business including transporters have got activated and jumped the bandwagon. So much so that transporters hitherto commuting passengers are now giving preference to ‘import-export’ of liquor to earn easy money in triple scale compared to normal earning. The wholesalers too are playing their games rather differently. They are showing their sell in city on record but the stocks are being dumped in Chandrapur and Wardha (another ‘Dry’ District) to serve the ‘dry’ tipplers in premium, said the sources.
The role of ruling party politicians in general and Mungantiwar in particular is also under clouds. Their silence to the menace could be out of helplessness (majboori).
Chandrapur District is dotted with coal mines and a few power plants. Lakhs and lakhs employees make up these coal mines and power plants. And these workers are easily the ‘customers’ of bootleggers in ‘dry’ area. Both, it seems, are ‘cheerful.’
While speaking to Nagpur Today, Congress MLA and former State Minister of Water Resources Vijay Wadettiwar said that this total liquor ban in Chandrapur is only on paper. In reality, liquor is available and sold openly at many places.
Vijay Wadettiwar charged that liquor is smuggled from Andhra Pradesh (south India), Yavatmal, Bhandara and Gondia.
He further alleged that the local police officials have developed a nexus with the smugglers and the vendors. He alleged that almost every police station is getting Rs 15 lakh as ‘Hafta’ (weekly protection payment). How will they implement the ban on alcohol when they themselves are addicted to it and they get weekly protection payment from the vendors and smugglers?
Vijay Wadettiwar alleged that the government machinery has been found wanting in many ways in implementing the ban on alcohol. He added that apart from the smuggled liquor, many unscrupulous elements are also selling spurious or duplicate liquor. This will definitely have adverse action on the health of the citizens of Chandrapur. The situation may turn into grim state in the near future. He said that the country liquor which used to cost Rs 50 per 180 ml is now costing Rs 200 per 180 ml.
“This smuggling and sale of liquor has become such a lucrative business that many unemployed youth and those youth working in small shops as waiters or salesmen have now started this business of smuggling and sale of illegal liquor. Many hoteliers claim that their waiters have run away to make a quick buck by selling liquor,” said Wadettiwar.
When Nagpur Today contacted BJP MLA Nana Shyamkule for his comments on the issue, he said, “The Government of Maharashtra decided to ban sale of liquor in Chandrapur. As a public representative, I and the conscientious citizens of Chandrapur, welcomed the move.” However, while denying the allegation of rampant illegal sale of alcohol in Chandrapur, he said that it is nothing but allegation. It is for the police officials and the police machinery to investigate and take preventive action against the smuggling and illegal sale of alcohol. He added that exemplary action would be taken by police against anyone found smuggling or selling alcohol in Chandrapur.
Rajeev Ranjan Kushwaha ( firstname.lastname@example.org )