Whether legally or not, intoxication is in the city’s air with the ongoing festive celebrations, and the state excise department is strapping on its boots to sober down the illicit liquor mafia.
Excise officials are ready to crack the whip on offenders smuggling in liquor from Goa to Maharashtra, largely through the Mumbai-Goa Highway.
Incidentally, public transport such as luxury buses, vans and trains are being used to sneak in Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) across the state border, officials said, making it difficult for them to find the spoils amid the vehicle’s large clutter of baggage.
Superintendent of excise department (Mumbai City) R S Parmar said, “These buses carry a lot of luggage, and the alcohol bottles are stashed away among this huge mass. However, we are keeping a close watch on these buses. More officials will be deployed for the search.”
The demand for alcohol surges around this time of the year, with a flurry of festivals cramming up the calendar until New Year, and invariably, there is a corresponding rise in its smuggling. Already, twice as many people have been booked and arrested for smuggling liquor than those in the whole of last year (see box).
Another cause for the swell in smuggling is the hike in excise duty on country liquor, which has weaned even die-hard tipplers away to demand more of inexpensive booze. Bootleggers have stepped in to fill the cheap booze supply vacuum, by smuggling in IMFL from Goa.
Consider this. A one-litre bottle of Director’s Special whisky, which costs Rs 122 in the party capital, sells at Rs 572 in the city, officials said. When drinks such as these are smuggled into Mumbai, giving excise duty a wide berth, bootleggers skim aprofit of Rs 450 on every litre.
An official from the excise department said, “The rise in the price of country liquor has led to a decline in its sale. The lower-middle classes cannot afford these rates and thus, turn to illicit, inexpensive liquor.” For the same reason, country liquor sales have dipped 9 per cent, even as seizure of bootleg liquor has intensified.
Seizures plying kitty
Officials said there has been a substantial increase in the seizure of illicit liquor of late. But figures were available only for the last two fiscals. In 2011-12, 485 litres of ill-gotten alcohol was seized, which rose to 2,705 litres in the fiscal ended 2013. The frequent seizures contributed perceptibly to excise revenues, which grew Rs 19 lakh last fiscal (2012-13) to Rs 14,43,15,625, up from Rs 14, 24,65,743 the year before (2011-12).
Number of people booked for smuggling alcohol in 2012
Number of people booked for smuggling alcohol in 2013 (till now)
Number of people arrested for illicit liquor in 2012
Number of people arrested for illicit liquor in 2013 (till now)