Mandi-Mandi hooch case has brought shocking facts to light. An organized illicit liquor trade flourished in a village of Hamirpur district right under the nose of the Excise and Taxation Department and the police. It wasn’t a minor business but had inter-state links too. Named ‘Rainbow Café, a factory was operating in a building in a village of the district.
According to the initial police investigation, it was believed the deaths were caused by either improper mixing of the ingredients, or because a part of the spirit procured for the production of liquor may be impure and contained methyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol.
It raises another crucial question; can such an organized, large scale illicit business flourish without political patronage?
Shaken by the death of seven persons due to consumption of spurious liquor in the Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, the State Police formed a Special Investigating Team to investigate the case. According to the police, as the scope of the investigation had expanded, the state police included Arjit Sen (SP Una), Mohit Chawla (SP Baddi), Arvind Digvijay Negi, ASP Kangra and Yogesh Rolta (SDPO Parwanoo) in the SIT.
The police raided different places in different districts, collected evidence and seized a large amount of incriminating material.
The police had nabbed four persons in this connection. On Saturday, the Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, held a press conference and claimed to have busted the illicit liquor business by arresting the prime suspect who was identified as Narender alias Kalu – a resident of village Maloh in the district. He was on the run following the deaths.
During the questioning, Kalu revealed that the main supplier of this illicit liquor consignment was one Gaurav Manhas alias Goru of Palampur. A police team traced his location and apprehended him from a hotel in Zirkpur on Friday.
On being questioned by the SIT, it was found that Goru belonged to the Panchrukhi area of Kangra. According to the police investigation, Goru was running an illicit bottling unit at Hamirpur in collusion with Praveen Thakur. It was also revealed that the raw material for production and packaging was received from other persons belonging to different states.
One Sagar Saini, who belonged to Delhi, supplied the spirit drums and AK Tripathi, who hailed from Samba, Jammu and Kashmir, provided the formula, the police said.
Further, it was revealed that the bottling unit in Hamirpur was run by two persons who belonged to Uttar Pradesh. The duo was responsible for mixing ingredients for the manufacture of liquor. Empty bottles were procured from ‘kabaddi’ in Hamirpur and bottles, caps, boxes and cartons were supplied from Parwanoo. VRV Santra stickers were created by a graphic designer.
Following Seizures Were Made from Hamirpur
1. More than 6000 bottles filled with illicit liquor labelled as “VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”,
2. five plastic tanks (300 Its each),
3. seven boxes containing bottle caps marked “VRV foods Ltd.”,
4. nine plastic drums (50. Its each),
5. one carton containing 136 strips of labels marked “Santra, VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”
6. 124 sheets containing more than 2500 holograms,
7. 18 plastic tag rolls marked VRV Foods,
8. one carton containing four bottles (500 ml each)
9. one jerry cans (5 Its) containing flavour,
10. three aluminium katchhhi, two bottle sealing machines,
11. one plastic jerry can filled with coloring material for the illicit liquor,
12. 56 plastic bags filled with more than 2500 empty bottles,
13. more than 2000 empty cartons marked “VRV Foods Ltd”,
14. one bottle filling machine,
15. seven stamps marked with impression of Batch No. 61, 62 and 361; 33 distilled water plastic containers (20 Its each)
These items were seized from the illegal premises busted at Panyala village, Hamirpur. The premises was marked as “Rainbow Café”.
At the instance accused Goru, another bottling plant was located under Station Nalagarh which was subsequently raided by police in Baddi.
The suppliers of holograms, labels, cartons, used bottles, spirit, bottles caps and material for the illicit production have been identified and apprehended during searches in the neighbouring districts Kangra, Solan, Hamirpur.
According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.
In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor. The racket included the following major partners:
1. Gaurav Manhas alias Goru (kingpin),
2. Praveen (owner of the building used as an illegal bottling plant)
3. Pushpender and Sunny (workers in the plant)
4. Manu and Gagan (prime suspects in Nalagarh case)
The DGP said that further investigation is underway and a clearer picture will emerge after the collection of evidence and interrogation of all accused.
HP Govt Employees to Get Higher Pay Scale on Completion of Two Years of Service: CM Jairam
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government employees working in different departments before January 3, 2022, would be given a higher scale at par with other employees on completion of two years tenure of regular service. A higher pay scale was also announced for the Junior Office Assistants (IT) on completion of two years of regular service.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur made these announcements during the Karamchari Maha Sammelan of the Himachal Pradesh Non-Gazetted Employees Federation at the hotel Peterhof on Sunday.
He appreciated the role played by the employee especially frontline workers in the battle against the pandemic.
He said most of the government employees in the state have been given revised pay scales and on average, every employee has got the benefit of a 12 to 15 percent salary hike. There has also been an increase in the pension of about 1.50 lakh pensioners of the state. The financial benefits of Rs. 7801 crore have been given to state government employees and pensioners from the year 2018 to 2022. The pensioners who retired before 2016 are getting the benefit of a 15 to 20 percent increase in the pension while around 40 thousand pensioners who retired after 2016 would be benefitted soon, he said.
He said the daily wages were Rs. 210 in the year 2017 which has been increased by the present state government to Rs. 350. Similarly, 12 per cent interim relief annually has been provided to government employees and pensioners during the present government’s tenure. He said the Himachal government has provided Dearness Allowance to its employees and pensioners on the lines of Punjab and Central governments from the due date. The Punjab government has given only 5 percent interim relief to the employees while the Himachal government has provided 21 percent interim relief to its employees.
“Out of the total interim relief amount given to the employees and pensioners amounting to about Rs. 6500 crore, Rs. 3500 crore has been paid during the tenure of our government” added the Chief Minister.
He said that the state government has increased the government contribution for NPS employees from 10 percent to 14 percent benefitting more than one lakh employees. The NPS employees are being given the benefits of retirement and death gratuity at par with employees falling under the old pension scheme. The government has also increased the upper limit of death gratuity from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.
The Chief Minister said the state government has also increased the honorarium of para-workers working in various departments. The salary of outsource workers has been hiked by Rs 1,500 per month.
Non-Gazetted Employees Federation President Ashwani Thakur thanked the Chief Minister for providing various financial and other benefits to different categories of government employees.
Most Covid Restrictions to be Lifted From March 31, Mask and Hand Hygiene to Continue
New Delhi-The Centre has issued a notification to the States informing that the provisions of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 will not be invoked in the country after March 31. The Union Health Ministry said that the use of face masks and following hand hygiene will continue.
It implies that most of the Covid-related rules and restrictions would end.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued the notification which said that the decision was taken following the overall improvement in the situation and the preparedness of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, local authorities and State police can still invoke fines and criminal cases against persons violating COVID-19 norms under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a senior government official said.
The DM Act was invoked on March 24, 2020, due to the pandemic
“Over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases. The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28%. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 Cr vaccine doses have been administered,” the notification said.
“I would like to mention that in view of the nature of the disease, we still need to remain watchful of the situation. Wherever any surge in the number of cases is observed, the States/UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at a local level, as advised by MoHFW (Health Ministry) from time to time,” the notification said.
The Indian government had issued various guidelines and measures for the first time on March 24, 2020, under the Disaster Management Act to curb the COVID-19 situation in the country, which have been modified several times thereafter.
India currently has 23,087 active COVID-19 cases and recorded 1,778 new cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate has also declined to 0.28%.
HP Cabinet Decisions: Country Liquor Made Cheaper in New Excise Policy, Read All Decisions
Shimla-A meeting of the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet was held on March 20, 2022, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
The excise policy for the financial year 2022-23 was approved. Approval was also given for the renewal of retail excise vends in the state for the financial year 2022-23 at the renewal fees of 4% of the value of unit/vend.
The State Government said that wants to enhance the government revenue and curb the smuggling of country liquor from the neighbouring states by a reduction in its price.
The brands of Country Liquor will be cheaper as license fees have been reduced. This will help in providing good quality liquor at a cheaper rate to the consumers.
In the new excise policy, the 15% fixed quota of country liquor for manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees has been abolished. According to the government, this step will give the retail licensees to lift their quota from the suppliers of their choice and further assure the supply of good quality country liquor at competitive prices. The MRP of country liquor will be cheaper by 16% of the existing price.
In this year’s policy, the Gaudhan Vikas Nidhi Fund has been enhanced by Re.1/- from the existing Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.50.
The fixed annual license fee of Bars has been rationalized by abolishing the area-specific slabs of license fee. Now throughout the State, there will be uniform license slabs based upon the room capacity in hotels.
Rates of the annual fixed license fee of Bars in the tribal areas has been reduced considerably.
Further, all the above stakeholders will have to install CCTV cameras at their establishments as it was made mandatory for them.
Wholesale vends and retail vends, the penalty provisions under the H.P. Excise Act, 2011 have been made more stringent.
An end to end online Excise Administration System would be established in Himachal Pradesh, the government said.
HP Government estimates a collection of Rs 2131 crore revenue during the year, which will be Rs. 264 crores higher than the financial year 2021-22 – growth of 14% in state excise revenues.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to amend Himachal Pradesh Disaster Relief Manual-2012 to include deaths due to biting of honey bees, hornet and wasps, accidental drowning and deaths due to accidents of vehicles (including land, water and air) under this Manual.
The Cabinet gave its approval for filling up 11 posts of ‘A’ Class Tehsildar in Revenue Department through direct recruitment on regular basis through Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.
HP State Toll Policy 2022-23
The HP Cabinet also gave its nod to HP State Toll Policy for the year 2022-23 which envisages auction cum tender for all the toll barriers in the State. During the year 2021-22, toll revenue has registered a growth of 20 percent of the previous year’s revenue.