A few weeks ago, officials from the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) arrested a person who was in possession of a huge quantity of liquor. Upon checking his phone, the officials found some codes in the message box. In another incident, acting on a tip-off the SEB teams reached an office that turned out to be a courier service, where they recovered 180 liquor bottles. After a week, another gang was busted smuggling liquor to Vizag from Telangana through another courier service, where they recovered 509 liquor bottles.
Smugglers are leaving no stone unturned to smuggle in liquor from neighbouring States to make easy money in Andhra Pradesh. The SEB which was formed to curb illegal sale of liquor, ID arrack, ganja and illegal transportation of sand, has so far arrested several persons involved in such activities.
In the case of Visakhapatnam, a huge quantity of liquor is not only being smuggled from Telangana but also from Odisha. Most of the contraband is said to be routed via Araku, Paderu and a few other areas of the agency.
“Till date, there were three such instances, at Gajuwaka, Paderu and V. Madugula, where smugglers used cargo services to transport liquor from Telangana and Odisha. We have mounted a strict surveillance over cargo and courier services, especially parcels coming from the two States,” says a senior official from the Excise department.
According to a senior SEB official, the main reason for the rampant smuggling is the high prices of liquor and unavailability of popular brands. The government has increased the rates to reduce consumption. Though consumption has come down, smuggling has increased, he says.
“The smuggler buys a bottle for ₹90 in Telangana and sells it here for double the price. Earlier, smugglers used to transport ganja using various modes, now they have shifted to liquor taking advantage of the situation,” he adds.
Meanwhile, tipplers who can’t afford liquor are turning towards illicitly distilled arrack. Especially in rural areas, the number of gangs manufacturing ID arrack have increased this year and so has the consumption. The manufacturers reportedly supply arrack as per the needs of the consumers. They sell it in small sachets and water bottles for ₹20 and also deliver bulk orders for marriages. After the SEB came into being, hundreds of ID arrack manufacturing units have been raided. In June, the first month of its formation, the SEB seized nearly 6,000 litres of ID arrack and destroyed about 84,000 fermented jaggery wash.