Trying to burn illicit liquor, excise officials set slum afire

While witnesses blamed the cops for carelessness, department functionaries claim that a damaged can containing alcohol, recovered during a raid, accidentally caught fire

In what appears to be an act of laxity on part of excise police officials, four of them and two women -- one of them pregnant --, were injured in a fire at Bhatnagar slum in Pimpri area. 10 to 15 houses in the area went up in flames, after the officials raided an illegal liquor shop and reportedly tried to burn the stock of booze.

The four excise police officials injured in the incident are Popat Dhube (44), Shivaji Chavhan (52), Vilas Kusalkar (45) and Anupkumar Deshmane (45).

Hot spot: 10 to 15 houses in Bhatnagar slum in Pimpri area caught fire in the incident. The flames were brought under control in an hour by four fire tenders

The women hurt have been identified as Rubina Altaf Shaikh (24) who is pregnant, and Usha Firoz Shaikh (25).

According to the information by an eyewitness, the team of excise police had come to the shanties for conducting a sweep on a house inside Bhatnagar slum, which is nearby the railway lines.

After the liquor was unearthed, a slum resident, Parvati Sagat, gave a matchbox to an excise officer, and he set the alcohol on fire. But the flames went out of control, and six people were injured. Dhube has received 90 per cent burns and is getting treatment at a private hospital. His condition is serious.

When MiD DAY questioned excise police sub-inspector Anupkumar Deshmane, who was part of the team, he said, “We found the liquor and were trying to open the cans. One of the cans was damaged and accidentally caught fire.”

The flames were brought under control in an hour by four fire tenders.

‘Charges are baseless’
Superintendent of excise department AB Chaskar too refuted the allegations against his men, “The claims against our officers are completely baseless, and residents of that slum are spreading rumors about the fire. When our officers were checking the liquor, a damaged can caught fire. It is very risky to set fire to such flammable objects, and our officers have done no such thing.”

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