Drones And Boats Used To Monitor Illegal Booze Production In Coastal Areas And Mangrove Belts In Mumbai

To aid its campaign on illicit liquor makers, state excise officials in Thane, near Mumbai, were given a drone, seven mechanised boats, and four paddle boats.

Drones And Boats Used To Monitor Illegal Booze Production In Coastal Areas And Mangrove Belts In Mumbai
Drones And Boats Used To Monitor Illegal Booze Production In Coastal Areas And Mangrove Belts In Mumbai

The state excise agency now has an eye in the sky in the form of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to aid in its hunt for illegal bourbon producers. A drone and boats have been supplied to the agency to patrol coastal areas and mangrove belts where this booze is illegally made. The Thane district pilot initiative could be reproduced across Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Raigad, and Palghar, in the near future.

The state excise employees in Thane district received a drone, seven mechanised boats, and four paddle boats thanks to funding provided by the District Planning Committee, according to Kantilal Umap, commissioner, Maharashtra State Excise (DPC). Approximately Rs.1.25 crore was spent on this equipment. “We've asked for this to happen in Palghar as well,” said the group. We're also eager to have this cutting-edge technology for usage in the Mumbai suburbs,” he added. 

Hooch is brewed mostly in coastal areas, mangrove belts, marshy fields, and areas with dense foliage and woodlands, all of which are difficult to reach for law enforcement.During the monsoons, the drums containing the brew are frequently buried for fermentation on the banks of water bodies such as rivers and creeks. 

“We didn't have our own boats to go after illegally made booze. We had to borrow boats from locals who were either terrified of or working hand-in-glove with the bootleggers for a raid. They may refuse to work with you or even disclose information. “Having our own fleet of boats will enable us to execute raids more effectively,” said Usha Verma, State Excise's director of vigilance and enforcement.

From September 5 through October 8, the agency will conduct a special operation against hooch and duty-evaded liquor imported from other states. After receiving the drone and boats a month ago, Nilesh Sangade, superintendent, State Excise, Thane, said they utilised drones to reconnoitre regions and check where booze was being manufactured illegally, followed by raids using boats. In a fortnight, 12 such raids were carried out. The streams, Kariwali, Ulhasnagar, and Dombivali are some of the Thane places where hooch is made.

Between 1 April and 31 August, state excise officials have filed 10,195 cases across the state for production, sale and transport of illicit liquor, arrested 4,377 people and seized liquor and vehicles worth ₹21.60 crores.

Hooch, or tharra, khopdi, and gavthi daaru as it is referred to, is often laced with dangerous chemicals like methyl alcohol to make it more potent and give the drinkers a stronger ‘kick.’ However, despite the obvious risks to life and health, this is often consumed by the poor and working-class, as it is sold at rates as cheap as ₹10 per pouch or glass, as against country liquor, which is priced at around ₹50 per bottle.

In 2015, over 100 people lost their lives after consuming hooch at Malvani. Similarly, this illicit alcohol also caused the deaths of around 90 people in Vikhroli in 2004 and 101 people at Tardeo in 1991.

An alcohol tragedy at Khopoli in the 1970s led to the state government formulating the country liquor scheme in 1973 to make good quality liquor available to the working class at cheap rates.

The bootlegger mafia is said to have been born after the decision of the Morarji Desai government in the Bombay Province to prohibit in 1952. One of the prominent liquor mafias of Mumbai was the dreaded underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar, who manufactured the brew in areas like Dharavi and supplied it across the city.

Hooch manufacturing process

Low-quality black jaggery, navasagar or yeast, and orange and sweet lime peels are combined with water and preserved in a barrel for a few days. For a few days, this barrel is buried in shallow creeks, nallahs, and rivulets to aid fermentation. 

Organic garbage, lizards, rodents, and leather chappals are all added by some bootleggers to make the beverage stronger. After the brew has fermented, some ‘masala' is added to the wash, which is then cooked on a wood-fired ‘bhatti.' Condensed steam is collected in a pipe. 

For a bigger ‘kick,' chemicals like ethanol and methanol are added to this liquor, which has a 16 to 17 percent alcohol concentration.However, excess infusion of methanol may lead to fatal consequences like the loss of vision and even death.