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Mumbai hooch toll climbs to 100

8 cops, 4 excise officials suspended.


Nithin Belle

Published: Mon 22 Jun 2015, 11:21 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Mumbai: The toll in the illicit liquor tragedy was fast heading towards the century-mark on Sunday, even as Mumbai police launched a massive crackdown on the illegal liquor trade across the metropolis.

Nearly 100 people have died and about 45 more are under treatment at various hospitals after they had consumed country liquor at a bar in Malwani in Malad, a northern suburb, on Wednesday night.

Eight policemen from the Malwani police station and four officials of the excise department have been suspended in connection with the case, one of the worst hooch tragedies in the city in over a decade. Commissioner Rakesh Maria has also ordered the crime branch to take charge of the probe.

Raids are also being carried out across various illicit liquor dens in Mumbai in the wake of the Malwani tragedy. The police have launched a manhunt for the kingpins behind the hooch trade. About 20 people have been arrested so far in connection with the Malwani incident.

Illicit liquor has been brewed for decades in the distant suburbs of Mumbai, especially near the mangroves that provide cover for the operators. The racketeers supply the hooch to hundreds of country liquor bars, which are patronised by labourers and those who cannot afford cheap liquor that is sold at authorised shops.

The illicit liquor trade got a boost in the early 1950s after the government imposed prohibition in the erstwhile Bombay state. Though prohibition was withdrawn in Maharashtra — it continued in Gujarat — the hooch trade had established its roots. Several gangs were involved in the activity, the most notorious being the one led by Vardarajan Mudaliar, who dominated the trade from Dharavi-Matunga. The mangroves along the Bandra creek and in Dharavi (before the emergence of the Bandra-Kurla Complex) were ideal for the brewing of illicit liquor.

The hooch business thrives in many slum colonies even today, as many poor people prefer the inexpensive stuff brewed — in unhygienic conditions — by the illicit trade. The police generally do not take vigorous action against the business, until a tragedy occurs, when they launch a crackdown.

But within weeks, after the tragedy disappears from newspapers, it is back to normal for the illegal distilleries.


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