On its part, Maharashtra follows a policy of high price to discourage liquor consumption. But bootleggers, it seems, have thrown down the gauntlet to the government by going mobile with heavily discounted pricing. Can you imagine a mobile van parked on a South Bombay roadside selling duty-evaded, high-end liquor at throwaway prices?
The state excise department recently pinned down and arrested a bootlegger at Horniman Circle doing exactly that. And, ironically, his tempo was parked at a stone's throw away from the state excise headquarters at Old Customs House.
"We raided the location and seized liquor which was being sold illegally. The bottles were concealed in a cavity on the roof of the driver's cabin," said excise flying squad inspector Mahesh Bojjawar, who was part of the team that swooped down on the mobile liquor shop. Bojjawar, who was accompanied by sub-inspectors Sanjay Malusare and Qayyum Momin, added that the seizure includes bottles of premium Johny Walker whisky, liqueur, cognac, imported wine and vodka.
The total seizure was estimated at Rs 2.42 lakh. The raid was conducted under the supervision of Prasad Surve, director, enforcement & vigilance, and RS Parmar, superintendent, state excise, Mumbai city. Senior officers from the excise department said such illegal shops usually give heavy discounts to regular customers and even lure passers-by.
What encourages bootlegging in Mumbai? Maharashtra has one of the highest excise duty regimes in India. However, neighbouring states and Union territories like Goa and Daman have liberal liquor policies with cheaper costs. This offers a huge incentive to smugglers and bootleggers to smuggle in the brew to Maharashtra, in general, and Mumbai, in particular, where the number of consumers for high-end liquor is more.
That apart, neighbouring Gujarat being under prohibition, Maharashtra has become a transit point for transporting liquor from states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to the dry state. And, what helps the transport of smuggled liquor into Maharashtra is the restriction on checking of vehicles at border posts on commercial arteries like the Mumbai-Ahmedabad national highway.
While southern states have state-run beverages corporation to market genuine liquor at reasonable prices, some northern states follow a "theka" (contract) system.
Bojjawar said, based on a tip-off, they had also nabbed a man for trying to smuggle liquor from Maharashtra to Gujarat by train. The department seized 17 bottles of premium 1-litre bottles of Johny Walker Black Label whisky worth Rs1.02 lakh from the accused.
On Saturday, the Mumbai city flying squad also seized scotch and imported wine worth Rs5,42,900 from another accused at Cadbury Junction in South Mumbai.
Year Consumption Year Consumption % up/down
2013-14 1,615.06 lakh BL 12-13 1,497.62 lakh BL 7.84 (IMFL)
2013-14 50.56 lakh BL 12-13 46.08 lakh BL 9.71 (Wine)
2013-14 2,986.09 lakh BL 12-13 3,169.34 lakh BL -5.78 (Beer)
2013-14 3,210.97 lakh BL 12-13 3,382.99 lakh BL -5.08 (Country)