By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 10 Sep: Death of seven persons so far in village Phoolgarh, in district Haridwar, after consuming spurious liquor late last night and this morning is tragic but hardly surprising. Haridwar, where in a large part of the district, there is prohibition in force, continues to make news in respect of illegal trade of illicit liquor with the police and excise officials displaying total negligence towards curbing this trade. This is not the first time that deaths have been reported due to consumption of spurious liquor in the district.
One would recall the year 2019 when on 8 February, more than 150 persons had died after consuming illicit liquor in the Jhabreda area of the district which is near Roorkee. Of them 44 were from Haridwar district, while the rest were from neighbouring Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. The spurious liquor was however found to have been made in district Haridwar only. The then Haridwar District Magistrate Deepak Rawat and government had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. However, the trade continues to flourish. Most of the suspended officials finally get reinstated after a while every time such incident occurs and soon everything is forgotten. The usual ‘business’ resumes!
In the year 2019, 17 personnel were suspended for negligence of duty. These included a SHO, a police post in-charge, two beat constables, two regional excise inspectors, a sub-inspector and 10 excise constables. However none of them was sacked or imprisoned for long!. Several accused were sent to jail. The then SSP of Haridwar, Janmejaya Khanduri had arrested Sukhwinder and his son Hardeep Singh in this case. But today both of them are out of jail!
Earlier such incidents have happened in Haridwar and even in Dehradun districts. But due to the care less attitude of the government, police-administration and excise department, such cases continue to recur. While the trade continues to flourish, it makes news or any action is taken only in case of deaths.
After this poisonous liquor scandal of 2019, the governments in UP and Uttarakhand were shaken. Raids were carried out, many officials suspended and as the assembly was in session then, the then Excise Minister Late Prakash Pant had made an emotional speech in the House promising to take strict action. In fact, as many as 17 personnel were suspended too.
But this did not stop the trade of illicit liquor. Now when the Panchayat polls have been announced in Haridwar district, the Police and excise personnel ought to have become doubly vigilant to prevent sale or distribution of illicit liquor. However, sources claimed that the officials including the Police personnel were deliberately ignoring the “open” distribution of all categories of spurious as well as genuine liquor by the candidates contesting the Panchayat Polls.
If the government had really learnt lessons from the tragedy and had then taken some major action by permanently sacking the officials, then perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.
It may be recalled that CM Dhami himself is the Excise Minister of Uttarakhand, and therefore a lot is expected from him. Now the question is whether the Dhami Government will also set an example by taking any big action in the Haridwar Poisonous Liquor Case or will there be attempts to suppress the matter by making excuses in the name of action like the previous governments.