The hawk eyes of the Election Commission's surveillance teams notwithstanding, the flow of liquor and drugs seemed to be on ahead of today's ballot to pick a 117-seat Punjab assembly. If the seizure of liquor and drugs - from leading makes to the local variety -- in the last few weeks in Punjab is any indication, both categories of intoxicants have been freely supplied to gullible voters.
In high Spirits: Sources say that during polls, the flow of liquor,
drugs and money is unabated in Punjab. Representation Pic
Sample this. Over 6,00,000 bottles of country wine, nearly 2,00,000 kg of 'lahan' (homemade country drink), about 17,000 litres of illicit liquor, nearly 2,700 kg of 'bhukki' (poppy husk), over six kg of heroin and other things have been seized by teams of the EC.
The Border Security Force (BSF), which mans Punjab's 553-km fenced border with Pakistan, and other agencies have recovered nearly 50 kg of heroin, a high-end, expensive drug, valued at nearly Rs 250 crore. In the last 15 days, three major seizures of 12 kg, 17 kg and 14 kg of heroin were made.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi had expressed concern about drugs and liquor flow in Punjab. "While liquor is a menace in most states, the supply of drugs in elections is a unique problem with Punjab alone. This is very concerning and we are taking steps to curb it," Quraishi said during a recent visit here.
Kuljit Singh (name changed), manager of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal candidate in Kapurthala district, 200 km from here, said, "The flow of liquor, drugs and money is unabated. Though officials are doing strict checking everywhere, the consignments have been delivered earlier to the 'right places."
Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Congress candidate from Bholath constituency in the same district, had recently got a tempo-truck loaded with 183 cases of liquor seized by the authorities. Though the government and Election Commission (EC) are unwilling to give exact figures of liquor sold in recent months, trade insiders say the candidates and parties had started stocking up consignments as early as three months back.
"The EC was very strict about consignments once the elections were announced last month. They disallowed a truckload of liquor from my factory to a distributor in one district this month saying the distributor had pending stocks. They kept a strict eye on all stocks," said a liquor manufacturer, requesting anonymity. Over the last one month, EC teams have seized over Rs 33.16 crore of unaccounted cash from across Punjab. This included foreign currency in millions.