No big fish, only small-time players in police net so far - ECAS Punjab

No big fish, only small-time players in police net so far

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Ravi Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Batala, August 12

Instead of going after the big fish responsible for the spurious liquor deaths in Majha, the police and the Excise and Taxation Department have launched a drive against those manufacturing 'desi' alcohol, seizing drums of 'lahan'. To date, the Batala police have arrested eight persons, all small-time players.

"We are still investigating. We have been told to arrest the big players too," a key investigator told The Tribune. Sources said local leaders worked in close liaison with the area SHO because of vote bank politics. The SHOs were well aware of the bootleggers operating in their area, most of whom held a sway over the voters, who were their clients. Significantly, the SHO of the Batala (City) police station was among the first to be suspended after the liquor deaths. Sources claimed he had been appointed to the position on the directions of a powerful minister.

The police, however, blamed "archaic laws" for failure to nab the culprits, pointing out that a tanker carrying spurious liquor had been seized recently in the very area where 17 lives were lost. "Exactly 48 hours later, the accused was back in the streets with the supply," a senior officer said. The Punjab Chief Minister has spoken of the need to revisit the Excise Act enacted in 1914. It seems to have become ineffective.

Meanwhile, several persons booked in a dozen cases in Batala continue to sell spurious liquor. Triveni Chauhan and her accomplice Darshana Faujan, the prime accused in the Majha liquor deaths, have escaped punishment several times. Each time they are booked, they go into hibernation for a week or so and are subsequently back in business, "aided by local leaders", claimed sources.



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