Excise Department wants to stop voters being wooed by booze

Promises severe action against liquor smugglers 'catering to netas wanting to woo voters with alcohol', seeks 50 BMC Home Guards for tight nakabandi at 5 check points

The heat has been intense on bootleggers since the state's firm anti-addiction stance, but with the civic polls a week away, the Excise Department has sought more manpower from the BMC to achieve this effect. The department fears that many political parties, in order to sway voters at the last moment, may offer them free alcohol, as it has become unaffordable owing to a near-50 per cent hike in prices in the last year. Officials believe bootleggers may try to make the most of the high demand resulting out of this, and thus want to rope in 50 BMC Home Guard personnel. They want the extra force to assist them during nakabandis from February 9.

"We have approached the BMC and the Election Commissioner seeking their permission to allot us 50 Home Guards for a few days to assist us at various checkpoints in Mumbai. There is a high possibility of illegal liquor entering the state, and we do not want to take any chances," said senior excise official on the condition of anonymity.

As per the special budget allotted for the elections, the department has the authority to demand extra manpower. "As per the special provision, we can seek the help of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation if needed. With higher targets, we have no choice but to tighten our vigil to make sure that not even a single drop of illegal liquor makes its way into the city," said the official.

For the current fiscal year, the revenue target given to the state Excise Department was Rs 8.5 crore.

'Won't get bail'
The department has identified five check posts in the city -- one each at Mulund, Borivli station and Dahisar check naka. "Every check post will be sealed starting February 9. Once we get the BMC's final nod, we will get 10 Home Guards and 2-3 excise inspectors for each point. Teams of excise squads have already been deployed. We will have a tight nakabandi and a thorough checking for all vehicles, including two-wheelers. Anybody caught with illegal liquor will face charges of a non-bailable offence. Along with the alcohol, we will also confiscate their vehicles," an official said. NM Mudiraj, superintendent, excise (suburb), confirmed that the state is seeking BMC's permission for Home Guards. "With limited manpower, we decided to rope in Home Guards who can assist us in manning check posts. The state revenue will get affected if we leave any scope for bootleggers to enter the state," said Mudiraj.

Rs 8.5 crore
The revenue target given to the state Excise Department for the current fiscal year

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