With the election code of conduct in force, the Excise Commission steps up the ante against the use of liquor to woo voters; Here’s a lowdown on how exactly the authorities will monitor the sale of liquor in Goa
PANJIM: Stepped up surveillance across the State and borders to prevent smuggling and illegal distribution of liquor, in lieu of the ongoing code of conduct, has resulted in the seizure of 78 litres of alcohol within a span of just five days.
The excise department’s flying squads, constituted at the head office and all talukas, have been strictly instructed to ensure that no political party or individual uses liquor as a tool to woo the electorates ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and by-polls in three constituencies.
“In the last five days since the enforcement of the model code of conduct, the flying squads raided five places and seized 78 ltrs of alcohol. We will also be taking action against the concerned persons caught for the code violation,” said Excise Commissioner Amit Satija while speaking to Herald.
With all the liquor establishments and off-shore and land based casinos under its scanner, the department has also cracked down on those premises failing to comply with the guidelines including the mandatory installation of CCTV cameras along with DVR system for recording daily footage.
“It is compulsory that all the wholesalers and retailers install CCTVs with DVR facility. During our routine inspection, the teams have recorded 90 percent compliance while out of those remaining, the premises are either closed or have violated. The violators are being penalized, as we are issuing orders to seal these premises,” he added.
While wholesalers are under constant scanner, the excise department in the past had done micro level planning by asking all the licensed owners to provide details of daily consumption.
The Commissioner has further revealed that each liquor manufacturing and selling unit has been issued strict directions to furnish daily transactions. This means the licensees will have to provide how much liquor was consumed by its customers and sold, on a daily basis. If any large scale consumption is noticed, the former will have to explain about the sale. At the same time, the flying squads are given powers to raid any suspicious premise.
The department intends to increase the flying squads at the head quarter level to further strengthen its exercise. Satija said they have already set up a 24X7 control room to receive complaints related to the code violation. “The special teams formed at the head office will be taking action against all the complaints without delay,” he informed, claiming the department is leaving no stone unturned to thwart any attempt of liquor distribution in violation of the code guidelines.
On being asked on the restrictions in the timing of operations, the commissioner said the premises are allowed to operate as per their licenses and a total ban during the dry days. “If there are any instructions on the operation hours by the election office and/or district magistrates, we will accordingly implement,” he said.
Similarly, the casinos and inter-state check-posts are too under the radar considering their vulnerability. Satija on being asked, said, the teams have been regularly keeping a watch at the activities in the casinos. To prevent possible illegality along the borders, the department has tied up with the Forest Department and Railways for joint inspections. The officer explained, “We have been conducting joint inspections at the borders. During the recent coordination meeting with our counterparts in Maharashtra and Karnataka, it has been decided to identify liquor outlets within 5 kms and check for their daily transactions.”
In the past, the Karnataka and Goa excise teams have seized huge quantum of liquor, caught while being illegally transported through the forest routes. Goa shares its borders with Uttara Kannada and Belgavi in Karnataka, and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra.
In the last month, the Maharashtra excise officials had identified four routes - Chandgad-Amboli, Karnataka-Kagal, Radhanagri-Ponda and Gaganbawda from where liquor is generally smuggled from Goa. The counterparts also expressed apprehensions that foreign liquor could be smuggled into their states as it is cheaper in Goa and intended to set up temporary check-posts in Goa as well as Karnataka borders to check for all vehicles, suspected to be carrying alcohol.
Satija said they will further increase surveillance along the borders in the coming days. For now, besides flying squads taking a stock of the daily situation, CCTVs are also being installed.
With liquor being cheaper in Goa, it is one of the suspected commodities to be extensively used to woo voters. In the past, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has seized huge quantities of liquor especially during the last few days of the poll campaign. Stocking of liquor and using it during the dry days ahead of the polling process is also one of the popular gimmicks to convince voters to vote in favour of a particular candidate or political party.