Despite statewide awareness campaign and frequent raids and seizures, liquor flow in the state has continued to embarrass the Nitish Kumar government, most recently the scores of hooch deaths in at least four districts of north Bihar since Diwali last year.
According to state police headquarter, 16 premises have been identified in the state where police pickets and police stations would be set up following recovery of liquor there. This includes one godown in Patna, 12 locations in Purnia and three places in Sheikhpura district.
In Patna, a part of Bypass police station was recently shifted into a godown, where constables would stay and impounded vehicles would be parked. Earlier, the police station near NH-30, operational since 2007, had just two rooms.
Patna’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) M S Dhillon told HT that on January 31, 2021, the state’s excise department recovered liquor worth ₹2 crore, besides seizing a truck and pickup van from the private godown hired on rent for stocking fodder. “The godown is situated barely 500 metres from the police station. Following the seizure, the then station house officer of Bypass police station was suspended for dereliction for duty,” the SSP said.
The godown, built over an area of 5760 square feet on private land, was leased for commercial use without following norms. The land is the name of one Dinanath Mahto, whose son Awinash Mahto is accused in the liquor seizure case. The plot, which was confiscated, has a concrete godown and a periphery wall.
“The state government ordered the shifting of Bypass police station in the premises following Patna district magistrate’s confiscation order and that has been done,” Dhillon said.
On Tuesday, the Sheikhpura police decided to open police outposts in three houses which were earlier sealed by the excise department. Sheikhpura superintendent of police (SP) Kartikye Sharma a proposal has been sent to the government through excise department to hand over the three houses, situated at Budhauli Bazar under Sadar police station, Maldah and Maur villages under Barbigha police station limits, to open police pickets.
In Purnia, the district administration has identified 12 locations to open police pickets after seizure of liquor from there. Purnia SP Dayashankar told HT that one of the locations, Lal Godown, falling under Sadar police station area, is already functional as a police picket, which was opened after nod from district administration. Rest are under process, he said.
Sources in the police said most of the constables face shortage of space in police barracks and quarters and have to manage in overcrowded police lines, as adequate arrangements were not available for them. The latest action, they said, would help solve their space problems.
The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, the law brought in to ban liquor, empowers any excise official or police official, not below the rank of sub-inspector, to seal any premises on recovery of liquor and send a report to the district magistrate concerned to confiscate the property/building where the offence was committed.
Additional director general of police (headquarters) Jitendra Singh Gangwar said setting up police stations at confiscated properties under the anti-liquor law is first of its kind in Bihar.
However, Vinod Kanth, senior advocate at the Patna High Court, said the fairness demanded that the state government should have held its hands back since the matter is sub judice before the Supreme Court. “Such decisions will further complicate the issue and lead to more cases in the courts,” he said.
Earlier this week, the apex court had lashed out at the Bihar government, saying its prohibition policy had “choked the courts” with cases.
At a public function, chief justice of India N V Ramana had criticised the policy for its “lack of foresight”.