AIZAWL, May 19 – Dozens of Young Mizo Association (YMA) members yesterday swooped down on two city localities to survey the impact of the Central YMA (CYMA) deadline against bootleggers. Liquor, both moonshine and Indian (IMFL) and Burmese made liquor are easily available across the dry State.
Last month, the CYMA had set May 15 as the deadline for illegal brewers of Rangvamual and Phunchhawng to leave.
So far, 128 families engaged in bootlegging have left the villages due to the crackdown. Some families engaged in the illegal trade were still in the locality but were asked to leave peacefully.
According to a church study, there are 884 families in these localities out of which 241 are bootleggers. CYMA reckoned that most will get settled somewhere and hopefully engage in some other work.
The localities are the main watering hole for the thirsty drinkers of the city. The State is under the Mizoram Liquor (Total) Prohibition Act (MLTP) 1997. But the Act faces criticism on the ground that it is that the rich and powerful quietly bring in their drinks and guzzle it.
“The deadline for them to leave was May 15. We are here to check if any of these alcohol sellers are still around and we want all illicit liquor sellers to leave this place,” the general secretary of the CYMA, Vanlalruata told The Assam Tribune.
Ridding the State of the menace of alcohol and drugs to safeguard the youth is on the agenda of the CYMA.
Situated as it was on the main highway between the only airport of the State and the city, the localities had become a major eye-sore and a den of vice and all sorts of alcohol-related crimes. These two localities supply the bulk of illicit alcohol to the city and wider neighbourhoods. Throughout the day, drinkers and their vehicles can be seen lined up along the highway, including vehicles with official markings which offer much mirth to passers-by.
Despite numerous raids by the Excise cops over the years, they continued with the roaring business due to the loose implementation of the law which failed to keep the bootlegging king-pins locked up in jail while the lawkeepers continued harassing ordinary drinkers. This is the first time that such a major step has been taken to clear the area by anybody.
The State’s law enforcement agencies, churches and other organisations have tried to close down these illegal liquor joints several times without much success. Several churches of the city have been engaging with the people of the localities to support them in shifting to other means of earning a livelihood but as they said bootlegging is “easy money for people to give it up.”
Many experts such as medical doctors, social activists and church based workers have certified the lethal chemical content of the hooch. The Chief Minister has been known to comment that ‘earlier alcoholics had swollen faces and lived for a long time, but this illicit alcohol dried up the buttocks and the drinkers died so young.’
Many say that unless the State lifts the MLTP Act and allows healthier booze on legal sale, non-teetotalers will risk anything for a drink including drinking poison. According to local doctors alcoholism related deaths are increasing.
The CYMA has come in for criticism for allegedly taking away the livelihood of poor people and Burmese migrants, but the YMA members assert “there are many other ways of earning a living.”