The hooch tragedy in a cluster of villages in Botad taluka, which claimed 57 lives at the time of writing, has ripped off the proverbial fig leaf of “dry” Gujarat. Coming as a major embarrassment to the police and the political leadership, the tragedy exposes the hypocrisy of prohibition in the State. Country liquor dens continue to do brisk business even at this hour. “Daru” is freely available in all usual places in Gujarat, including Ahmedabad. The government is far from taking stricter actions against hooch dealers. VO! carried out an investigation in several different areas of Ahmedabad and we found out that nothing has changed on the ground in areas like Chandkheda-Amiyapur, Gulbai Tekra and Bopal-Ambli, known, in general, as the areas selling alcohol.
Pouches of hooch, known as “potli” in local parlance, are freely available. The only thing that has changed is the price. A glassful that cost Rs.20 earlier, is now priced at Rs.50. A take-away polythene bag which used to sell for Rs. 100, now costs Rs.250.
The bootleggers are glad for the opportunity to sell “good” hooch at a higher price. The alcohol supply has a solid underground base of known suppliers in each area catering to the ready clientele. Gheti in Vasna or Sanjay in Bhavaninagar are the names of some of the bootleggers in the game. It is doubtful whether such a robust network could thrive without support from the law enforcement agencies. The reasons behind why such illegal networks prosper are not difficult to fathom.
Meanwhile, the police have tried to downplay the story by saying that the deaths have occurred not by drinking adulterated alcohol but by drinking chemicals. It is common sense that those who drank the substance did not drink it as a chemical but in the belief that it was a cheap intoxicating liquid. The victims are all from the lower social strata of society. More than 70 survivors now need intense medical help and some are in such a critical state that they will depend on kidney dialysis forever due to the damage done by the hooch.
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