DC Edit | TN’s illicit liquor threat

It should be intriguing that a hooch tragedy of such mega proportions, taking a heavy toll of at least 34 lives and sending innumerable people to hospital in Kallakurichi district, could happen in a state where licit liquor can be bought across the counter from noon to 10 pm on all days other than declared holidays. People consuming spurious liquor, and at times perishing because of it, is a misfortune associated with states having total prohibition like Bihar and Gujarat where bootleggers operate on the sly and their brew, at times, get mixed with poisonous substances like methanol.

That such a tragedy struck Tamil Nadu again, however, should not be a surprise as only a year back 10 persons were killed by spurious arrack in Marakkanam and Madurantakam, impelling Opposition party leaders to allege that illicit liquor flows whenever the DMK comes to power. The government, at that time, shrugged off the charge by pointing out that the state was witnessing such a tragedy after a gap of 18 years. It also blamed the deaths on industrial spirit, which is not meant for human consumption. But that did not explain how the industrial spirit or methanol got into the barrel or container from which arrack was poured out to drinkers.

Even on Wednesday when the catastrophe unfolded at Karunapuram with people falling sick and getting admitted to hospital, the administration was in denial, suggesting that it was a health issue and not related to illicit spirit. Then the blame was placed on methanol, as though it was freely available for people looking for a drink. They were all attempts to gloss over a stark reality of there existing a thriving illicit liquor trade that allegedly has a nexus with politicians and police personnel.

Otherwise, when the state has an exclusive enforcement wing to crack down on hooch, how does an active network of bootleggers continue its trade unabated? Though tragedies have struck repeatedly, why has nothing substantial been done to put an end to it? It is time the state government at least wakes up and acts.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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