On Thursday, this paper had reported how a team from the Malwani police had returned empty-handed from the den of hooch seller Francis D’Mello. Just a day later, the Crime Branch had searched the den and recovered eight drums full of deadly methanol that could have resulted in hundreds of more deaths.
This was a clear indication that despite the hooch tragedy claiming 106 lives and leading to the transfer of Senior Police Inspector Prakash Patil and seven other policemen for dereliction of duty, the Malwani police have not learnt any lessons.
Incidentally, Patil was part of the team that investigated the Vikhroli hooch tragedy in 2004, in which 87 people had died. He was, thus, well versed with how the hooch network operates and it is very unlikely that he was not aware of such a big spurious liquor network flourishing right under his nose in Malwani.
Instead of cracking down on this network after he took over as the officer in-charge of Malwani police station, Patil ignored the racket. Encouraged by this, dealers started to operate without fear, going to the extent of selling illicit liquor openly.
Attempt to cover up
The attitude of the Malwani police was apathetic even after the June 18 tragedy, when people started dying after consuming the liquor. Instead of reporting the matter to their superiors and taking precautionary measures to prevent others from consuming the killer liquor, the staff made an attempt to misreport the incident, fearing action from higher-ups in the department. Only after dozens of deaths did they start panicking and initiate a crackdown on the liquor mafia.
It is high time the Mumbai police realise that such black sheep are dangerous and pose a grave threat to society. The department should ensure stringent action is taken against the errant policemen so that no police officer dares to let liquor dens operate in his jurisdiction.