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Ban may promote bootlegging

Posted by Ramesh Khati on November 13, 2009

SILIGURI, 12 NOV(The Statesman): Fearing bootlegging would be encouraged with the GJMM embargo on licensed liquor trade in the Darjeeling hills, the administration has decided to embark on an awareness campaign on the matter.
The inspector general of police, north Bengal, Mr KL Tamta today said that in keeping with the state chief secretary’s recent plea to the GJMM leadership to consider lifting the ban to restrain illicit liquor consumption, the administration would try to convince the common people of the health hazards involved in the matter.
“We would not go in for a confrontation with the political leadership in the hills, but would endeavour to keep the people away from consuming illicit liquor,” he said.
However, ridiculing the administration’s ‘soft role’ on the matter, the GJMM leadership asked the police to stamp out bootlegging in the hills. “Why should they be soft when they are aware of the health hazards involved in the matter?” questioned the GJMM media spokesperson Dr Harka Bahadur Chhetri.
Following the GJMM president, Mr Bimal Gurung’s diktat, licensed liquor trade has come to a halt since 7 November. In all, 19 off-shops and 54 licensed bars spread over the hills remain closed. And along with the closure of licit liquor trade, bootlegging has received a spurt concerning the administration.
The state chief secretary Mr Ashoke Mohan Chakravarty appealed to the GJMM leadership during his recent visit in Siliguri to lift the ‘booze ban’ in consideration of public health.
Mr Tamta said that the administration would take action if any of the licensed off-shop owners lodged complaints with the police station against the strikers. “We would not do anything on our own, but if any liquor trader files complaint alleging forced closure of shops we would take action,” he added.
Scoffing at the “non-interference” stance of the administration, the GJMM leader Dr Chhetri said that the police should come down heavily on it. “We would not budge from our ban programme, but we would like to see the administration curb bootlegging with an iron hand,” he said.
He further said that the inaction on the part of the police in effectively checkmating illicit liquor trade had moved them to deploy the Gorkhaland Personnel activists in the hills.


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