Odisha evolved a 20-point policy framework to check manufacture, trade of illicit liquor
Bhubaneswar: Excise Minister Dr Damodar Rout on Saturday expressed his helplessness to impose a total prohibition on liquor trade in the State.
“It is beyond my authority to enforce a total ban, but I can assure to check the expansion in consumption of liquor, smoking, narcotics of all forms that requires collective effort,” Rout told the State Assembly. Replying a debate on the admissibility of an adjournment motion on free flow of liquor and rampant hemp cultivation in the State, Rout said that the Government had evolved a 20-point policy framework to check manufacture and trade of illicit liquor and destruction of hemp cultivation.
In order to prevent hooch tragedy, Rout said that the officials of his department and the district authorities had been warned that they would be held responsible for incidence of hooch deaths and action would be taken against them if such incidents occur.
The Excise Minister claimed that no casualty had been reported due to consumption of liquor in Odisha during the last two years due to several measures taken against the spread of illegal liquor trade. As many as 266 liquor shops opened on Government land were closed and the Government issued order not to allow opening of any liquor shop near school, temple and within 50-metre distance of the National Highway, he said.
However, he admitted that still there were as many as 21 licensed liquor shops near schools. The Minister said a high-level coordination committee was constituted at the State level under the Chairmanship of the State Chief Secretary to check illegal liquor trade and ganja cultivation.
Stating that ganja cultivation was being carried out in as many as eight districts, particularly in tribal areas, he said that the district Collectors and police of Angul, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Phulbani, Gajapati, Malkangiri and Boudh were provided all sorts of assistance to detect and destroy hemp plants. During last year, the Excise officials along with the police had destroyed hemp plant worth over Rs950 crore. He also admitted links of the Maoists with hemp cultivation in the State.
Quoting Intelligence sources, the Minister said as per a report, ‘poppy’, a dangerous narcotic, is being transported to Odisha via West Bengal. He called upon the Members to think how to check the menace.Regretting that liquor continues to take toll in the tribal areas, he said that any amount of money would fail to bring about socio-economic development in the areas unless they quit the habit.Participating in the debate Opposition Chief Whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati said distilleries were opened in many villages, NACs and Municipalities, particularly in tribals areas, after the Government issued licence. Ganja cultivation was also being done widely in the Maoist-affected tribal districts, he said, adding that the Maoist problem could be solved to a great extent if the illegal liquor trade and ganja cultivation were stopped.
Bahinipati asked the Government to strengthen its enforcement mechanism, conduct regular raids and fill up the vacancies in various posts at the field levels to check the illegal trade. The Government should not resort to increase revenue by spreading the liquour shops, he said. Bahinipati was supported by his party colleague Bhujabal Majhi.BJP member Pradip Purohit alleged that the officials of the Excise, Police, Forest and Revenue Departments were involved in illegal liquor trade. BJP’s Bibhuti Bhushan Harichandan too complained that liquor shops were opened close to the NHs, schools and temples violating the rules.
Participating in the discussion, BJD Member Mahesh Sahu said that illegal liquor trade was going on as there was no coordination between various enforcement agencies of the Government.