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After 80+ Deaths in UP and Uttarakhand, Villagers Say Cops are in on Hooch Racket

Since Friday, more than 80 people from over a dozen Dalit-dominated villages in Saharanpur and Haridwar district in Uttarakhand have lost their lives after consuming illicit country-made liquor.

Anupam Trivedi | News18.com

Updated:February 11, 2019, 3:36 PM IST
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After 80+ Deaths in UP and Uttarakhand, Villagers Say Cops are in on Hooch Racket
File Photo. Policemen recovered poisonous liquor in Balupur village. (Image: PTI)
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Dehradun: A group of women in Umahi village in Saharanapur district of western Uttar Pradesh console Rumkesh (31) who lost her husband in the hooch tragedy.

Rumkesh's husband was the sole breadwinner in the family.

As tears roll down her cheeks, Rumkesh asks who will look after her children now. Someone in the crowd tells her “fikar mat kar, Rs 2 lakh milenge. (Don’t worry you will get Rs 2 lakh).”

Both UP and Uttarakhand governments have announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the severely ill.

Since Friday, more than 80 people from over a dozen Dalit-dominated villages in Saharanpur and Haridwar district in Uttarakhand have lost their lives after consuming illicit country-made liquor.

A joint team of police officials from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are hunting for the kingpin of the hooch business. Several ‘suspected suppliers’ have been held in both districts, but so far the ‘kingpin’ is out of the reach.

“I have no idea how many have died,” Dinesh Kumar, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Saharanpur told News18 on Monday before disconnecting the phone call. But there seems to be an apparent reason why police are tightlipped.

The illegal country-made liquor business is not something new in the bordering districts of UP and Uttarakhand. Local women allege police are hand-in-glove with the suppliers and manufacturers.

“Police get Rs 5 thousand hafta (extortion money) from the bootleggers. Why they will act?” says a woman from Umahi village.

The affected villages of UP and Uttarakhand are barely 15 kilometers from each other. Reports suggest that the poisonous liquor that took 36 lives in Haridwar district and 44 in Saharanpur was manufactured in UP and distributed across bordering villages.

The villagers, who mostly work in brick kilns, prefer ‘easy and cheap’ liquor.

"Country-made liquor comes for Rs 80 for a quarter, while the same quantity is available for Rs 30 in our village,” says one Monu from Bindukhera village of Haridwar. Fifteen people have died in his village.

Monu says that a local agent makes a handsome profit after greasing the palms of enforcement teams. A ‘can’ of 30 litre of illicit liquor fills 166 pouches, each of 180 ml and could fetch Rs 4,980. A supplier usually makes Rs 12-15 for every pouch sold.

In fact, 200 ml pouch of country-made liquor is freely available in government shops in UP. Each 200 ml pouch comes with three variants of alcohol strength: 25%, 36%, 42% and a price tag of Rs 45, Rs 60, Rs 75, respectively.

In Uttarakhand, the same liquor is available in bottled packaging and is priced a little expensive.

“Locals in both districts prefer affordable illicit liquor that gives ultimate kick,” adds Monu. There are numerous suppliers active in hundreds of villages in western UP and Uttarakhand and they run a parallel ‘monetary system’ in which every stakeholder makes money.

Uttarakhand excise minister Prakash Pant agrees that illicit liquor is a problem.

“We crack down on illegal suppliers and manufacturers from time to time. The recent tragedy was the first such incident in the state and has prompted us to keep a close eye,” Pant said.

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| Edited by: Aditya Sharma
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