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Illicit liquor big business in Bangalore Rural district

By K.V. Subramanya

Some of those who drank the deadly brew waiting to be allotted beds at the Nelamangala Government Hospital near Bangalore on Tuesday. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

BANGALORE, APRIL 12. Spurious arrack that claimed 21 lives in Nelamangala taluk on Monday and Tuesday has once again brought to light the grim truth that the trade in spurious liquor continues to flourish in Bangalore Rural district.

Third incident

This is the third such incident in which people have died in Bangalore Rural district after drinking spurious arrack supplied in sachets stamped with the government emblem. Ten people died at Sankalipura and Kollur Mallasandra villages in Hoskote taluk of the district a few months ago. Many such deaths are said to have gone unreported.

Though the spurious arrack sold in Nelamangala taluk had the emblem of the State Government on the sachets, the police and Excise Department officials suspect that some bootleggers could have faked the emblems on the sachets supplied to vendors.

As there are several similarities in the latest incident and the two reported from Hoskote taluk, the police are investigating whether the three are connected, sources in the State police said. "There is a suspicion that arrack was supplied from Tumkur district, which borders Nelamangala," the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police, Susheel N. Borkar, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The distillation of fake Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and illicit arrack is a well-organised business in at least six centres in Bangalore Rural district: Medi Mallasandra, Matta Mallasandra, Sankalipura, Kattegehalli and Bylanarsapura in Hoskote taluk and Adigarakallahalli in Anekal taluk.

The illicit distillation in these villages around Bangalore is said to cause a revenue loss of Rs. 50 crores a year to the State Excise Department. According to officials of the department, on an average, these centres manufacture 10,000 cases of IMFL and a huge quantity of arrack daily and supply them to liquor shops and bars in Bangalore city and Bangalore Urban and Rural districts.

Even the police are hesitant to enter these villages fearing reprisals from the anti-social elements involved in the trade. There have been many instances of Excise Department personnel being attacked by armed gangs at Bylanarsapura and Kattegehalli. Many officials have been injured in the attacks.

Some time ago, a platoon of the District Armed Reserve (DAR) police accompanied excise officials when they raided illicit units at Bylanarsapura. The officials say that only a joint operation by the Excise and Police departments will yield results.

A senior official of the Excise Department says that despite frequent raids, the illicit distillation units are flourishing and expressed his helplessness in checking the trade.

Sandalwood mafia

Further, many of the bootleggers from these villages are also into sandalwood smuggling, and they transport illicit liquor and sandalwood in the same vehicle.

A former Superintendent of Police of Bangalore Rural district says that because of communal and political reasons, the police have not been able to sternly deal with the bootleggers and smugglers in these villages.

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