With spurious liquor being smuggled into western Uttar Pradesh from the bordering areas of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, the flourishing racket in the region has wider ramifications. The brew claimed over two dozen lives in the villages around Deoband in Saharanpur district last week. The victims belonged to the downtrodden sections.

Now, a meeting of senior police officials from U.P. and Haryana will be held in Karnal, Haryana, on Wednesday to discuss measures to curb the menace.

Alarmed at the deaths and the manufacture and sale of spurious liquor, the U.P. police have launched a drive in the region to curb its sale and consumption and to expose the people behind the racket.

About 45 persons were arrested by the Saharanpur police in the last couple of days from several villages under Qutubsher, Kotwali, Chilkana, Nakud, Fatehpur and Deoband police stations areas. About 300 litres of illicit liquor was seized by the police, which also unearthed a liquor manufacturing unit.

Kingpin arrested

Among those arrested are Praveen, kingpin of the racket in Haryana, and Manoj Tyagi and Islam, said to be masterminds of the illegal trade in the Saharanpur division. Another suspect, Sanjay, also involved in the racket, is absconding.

According to the Saharanpur district administration, about 10 persons were involved in the trade, carting spurious liquor into the district. The menace has also been reported from the neighbouring Muzaffarnagar district.

‘Being sold openly’

Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order )-II, Arvind Jain, told reporters here on Tuesday that the magnitude of the racket could be gauged from the fact that illicit liquor was being sold openly on fruit juice thelas (carts) in western U.P.

Adding that the practice was also widely prevalent in Ghaziabad and Noida, Mr. Jain said a drive had been launched to seize the liquor and apprehend those involved in the trade. The campaign in western U.P. would continue for the next 15 days, he said.

Officials suspended

Four excise officials, including the District Excise Officer of Saharanpur, and nine policemen, including the station house officer of Deoband station, were suspended by the State government in the wake of last week’s hooch deaths.

While the official death toll was placed at 25, unofficial reports said around 30 people died after consuming the deadly brew. Taking a stern view of the incident, Chief Minister Mayawati has directed officials to take strict action against those involved in the racket.