By Sanjay Behera
Bhubaneswar: Contraband and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) trade continues unabated during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. In fact, bootlegging cases are on a rise in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. Police has registered more than 40 cases in the state capital.
As police is stretched out enforcing public lockdown measures to keep corona virus infections under control, unscrupulous traders are exploiting the situation to sell liquor and ganja. Though liquor shops are closed as part of the state lockdown, retailers are supplying their customers through back-door channels in many areas of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
According to sources, vegetable vendors and small businessmen at several places are selling IMFL at thrice the original price to their customers. Since there is no restriction on trade of essential items, several vegetable vendors across the city are slipping in illegal liquor and ganja pouches in essential items’ packets. This is causing resentment among the locals.
Rajkishore Paikray, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bhubaneswar confirmed that the Special Task Force of the Commisionarate of Police recently raided many places in and around Bhubaneswar and has seized more than 4000 litres of IMFL. He said the police had arrested more than 50 persons during their raid at Khandagiri, Nayapalli,Chandrasekharpur, Infocity, Balianta, Mancheswar and Shaheed Nagar areas etc, in Odisha’s capital city. Most of the arrested were salesmen of different companies who had procured IMFL through illegal means from different sources.
”Police is yet to succeed in capturing the Unit-1 daily market which is the hub for sale of illegal liquor”, Paikray admitted before adding that the police was investigating each and every case after getting tip-offs from their sources. He said most of the persons involved in this trade were having a criminal background . Sources, however, tell that many unemployed youths are also involved, primarily in the cannabis trade, which is plently available in Unit-6 area of Bhubaneswar city.
Most of these incidents happen during 10 pm to 8 pm when restrictions are lifted to allow people purchase essential items and deployment of police personnel on streets is thin. Taking advantage of their absence, liquor mafia and drug peddlers become active during this period. This has turned the situation so much that after the lull of first few days during lockdown, there are reports of a significant spike in number of drunkards and drug addicts in several areas.
The modus operandi of the youths selling IMFL is unique from the previous sellers. They keep two to three mobile numbers or phones for customers to contact them for liquor. The sellers themselves do not answer the calls from unknown numbers
: Rather they use a common contact to take the orders and fix a place for delivery of the liquor. According to the sources, the liquor is sold at a price three times higher than the MRP, and the sellers are able to earn up to Rs 70, 000- Rs 80, 000 a day. Moreover, sources said liquor is home delivered in places like Shaheed Nagar, Lewis Road, Bapuji Nagar and Indradhanu Market areas.
Sources tell there are more than 20 illegal vendors operating from the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. Many allege that drunkards and drug addicts openly violate the lockdown norms and roam around public spaces in an inebriated state, causing panic among people. They say despite approaching the police, no action has been taken against the addicts and miscreants involved in the illegal trade.