Action against illegal liquor brewing

Thiruvananthapuram: The Police, Excise, Revenue and Forest Departments will conduct raids to check illegal brewing, hoarding and retailing of liquor during the Christmas-New Year season.Official sources said there were reports that several hotels, including seaside restaurants and private tourist resorts, were stocking and selling liquor without government licence. There is apprehension among a section of the police, Revenue and Excise officials that such unregulated sale of liquor could open the door for retailing of liquor and beer of dubious quality in the State, putting to risk tourists, including foreign nationals.

Sources said that there were reports that hooch brewing dens, near Aryanadu and in Agasthya Vanam Biological park forests, were working over time to the meet the seasonal demand for cheap liquor. They said illegal distillation was also rampant in several hilly areas of the district. The police are also preparing to crack down on the peddling of drugs, chiefly marijuana, in tourist spots in the district.An official said that persons consuming liquor on premises where corkage is not allowed will also be booked under law.

Short selling of alcohol, mostly by tampering the peg measure or diluting the contents of the liquor bottle, was common in many bar hotels in the district. Authorities rarely acted on complaints from consumers, a consumer activist alleged. He said Legal Metrology Department rarely conducted surprise checks at bar hotels. There have been instances where consumers who dared to complain about short selling were manhandled by bar hotel staff.An Excise Department official said certain bar owners sell liquor in restaurants, rooftops and lawns during the festival season without getting separate licences for such sales. He said only uniformed staff should be employed in bars and managements allowing drunkenness on hotel premises should be prosecuted.

Illegal brewing of wine for sale through confectionary shops and at festival fairs was also common in the district. Only few persons in the district have the licence to operate wineries.The consumption of ‘zingiberries,’ a veterinary preparation having high spirit content, as a cheap substitute for liquor was widespread in certain rural suburbs of the district. The sale of ‘arishtams’ and ‘asavas,’ ayurvedic preparations with high alcohol content, was also common. An Excise Department official said regular inspections would be conducted to check the sale of illicit spirit, disguised as toddy, through licensed outlets in the district.

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