Chandigarh: The hawk
eyes of the Election Commission's surveillance teams
notwithstanding, the flow of liquor and drugs seems to be on ahead
of Monday's ballot to pick a 117-seat Punjab assembly.
If the seizure of liquor and drugs - from leading makes to the
local variety - in the last few weeks in Punjab is any indication,
both categories of intoxicants have been freely supplied to
Sample this. Over 600,000 bottles of country wine, nearly 200,000
kg of 'lahan' (homemade country drink), nearly 17,000 litres of
illicit liquor, nearly 2,700 kg of 'bhukki' (poppy husk), over six
kg of heroin and other things have been seized by teams of the EC.
The Border Security Force (BSF), which mans Punjab's 553-km fenced
border with Pakistan, and other agencies have recovered nearly 50
kg of heroin, a high-end, expensive drug, valued at nearly Rs.250
In the last 15 days, three major seizures of 12 kg, 17 kg and 14
kg of heroin were made.
Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi had expressed concern
about drugs and liquor flow in Punjab.
"While liquor is a menace in most states, the supply of drugs in
elections is a unique problem with Punjab alone. This is very
concerning and we are taking steps to curb it," Quraishi said
during a recent visit here.
Kuljit Singh (name changed), manager of the ruling Shiromani Akali
Dal candidate in Kapurthala district, 200 km from here, told IANS:
"The flow of liquor, drugs and money is unabated. Though officials
are doing strict checking everywhere, the consignments have been
delivered earlier to the 'right' places."
Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Congress candidate from Bholath
constituency in the same district, had recently got a tempo-truck
loaded with 183 cases of liquor seized by the authorities.
The liquor, allegedly belonging to an Akali Dal candidate and a
former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) candidate,
was meant for voters.
"(She) is openly providing liquor to the voters to influence
them," Khaira alleged.
Election Commission teams and police have seized liquor at other
places as well. Nearly 65 cases were recovered in Mohali,
adjoining Chandigarh, Saturday.
"Due to fear of defeat, the opposition is now playing unacceptable
games with me. They deploy liquor bottles while trying to defame
me. They have been frustrated by the support to me from voters,"
Akali Dal candidate from Mohali and former union minister Balwant
Singh Ramoowalia said.
Though the government and Eleection Commission are unwilling to
give exact figures of liquor sold in recent months, trade insiders
say the candidates and parties had started stocking up
consignments as early as three months back.
"The EC was very strict about consignments once the elections were
announced last month. They disallowed a truckload of liquor from
my factory to a distributor in one district this month saying the
distributor had pending stocks. They kept a strict eye on all
stocks," a liquor manufacturer, requesting anonymity, told IANS.
Over the last one month, EC teams have seized over Rs.33.16 crore
of unaccounted cash from across Punjab. This included foreign
currency in millions.
Over 211,700 licenced weapons were deposited with the local
authorities in various districts of Punjab.
Over 1.76 crore voters are eligible to decide the fate of 1,078
candidates in the fray, including 93 women candidates.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)