Guwahati, Thursday, March 7, 2019
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Soon, paper-based kit to test spurious liquor in State
Rituraj Borthakur

 GUWAHATI, March 6 - Rattled by the unprecedented hooch tragedy that claimed over 150 lives in Upper Assam, the Department of Excise has tied up with the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) to set up a state-of-the-art chemical lab in the State and also develop a low-cost handy testing kit to detect spurious liquor.

On the directions of Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Additional Chief Secretary (Excise) Jishnu Barua and Excise Commissioner Rakesh Kumar today held a discussion with a team of scientists of the NCL.

“We have come up with a plan to tie up with the NCL, which is a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). We will be setting up a modern chemical laboratory to test and authenticate liquor products in Assam,” an official told The Assam Tribune.

The laboratory will be built under the World Bank-funded ASPIRe (Assam State Public Finance Institutional Reforms) project of the finance department at an estimated cost of Rs 4 crore. The NCL will act as a consultant and prepare the action plan and DPR in six months. The laboratory, known for its excellence in scientific research in chemistry and chemical engineering, will also suggest the mechanism, equipment and expertise to strengthen the field staff for spot chemical verification of any kind of liquor.

The excise department has also requested the NCL to develop and design a low-cost, simple testing kit – preferably paper-based – which could be used by both government agencies and common people who intent to consume alcoholic beverage.

“The NCL scientists were positive about the prospect of developing the kit, which will basically be a chemical indicator that will instantly indicate presence of toxic substances, particularly methanol, in the liquor. It will be something like a litmus test, in which the litmus paper changes its colour when dipped in acidic or alkaline solutions,” PRO to the Excise Minister, Sailendra Pandey said.

The kit will be made available at liquor vends, and to the field staff of the Excise department and police. Common people will also be able to purchase it from the retail liquor vends.

The NCL team today visited the already existent chemical laboratory of the excise department at Bamunimaidam and travelled to Boko to have an idea of how locally fermented liquor is made. Samples of all varieties of locally fermented liquor will be sent to NCL.

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