Exclusive: Inside Bihar’s lethal booze factories


According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 708 counterfeit liquors were consumed in India in 2021, resulting in 782 deaths nationwide that year.

Generic liquor

The sale and consumption of liquor is prohibited by law in Bihar (representation).

By Md Hizbullah: The boatman takes us to the edge of a lonely river. We walk through barren patches. We push it with winter crop weeds, sedges and antennae-like golden spikes.

Far enough in the fields, we feel the heat radiating from a mud and brick oven. India Today’s Special Investigation Team has entered an illegal liquor area in Bihar’s Saran district. Four units can be seen separating the breweries.

Barely five kilometers from the District Magistrate’s office and an hour from the site of last week’s shocking tragedy at Chhapra, these roofless distilleries continue to operate with impunity.

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DANGEROUS PROCESS

Rusty oil drums, dirty pipes, drums and gurh or jaggery sap are kept outside in non-existent sanitary conditions.

A large drum filled with fermented sweat is placed over the fire. The liquid evaporates, sending the vapors down the cold water tanks to condense.

A brewer explained the process of making alcohol to India Today’s investigative reporter.

“It has a sweet (fermented) sap. It is heated, evaporated and condensed into (cold) water and comes out in the form of alcohol”, he explained. “It drips like alcohol.”

“It’s really dirty,” the reporter shrugged.

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“It’s not dirty. It’s sweet. It is the sweet (jaggery) sold in the market,” argued the hooch-maker.

“Aren’t people afraid of the police?” asked the reporter.

“Why aren’t we? We are not making amrit (holy water) here,” laughed the brewer.

THE MOON CHAIN

White moonshine is packed in large polythene bags and given to local suppliers.

When investigated, hooch producers claimed that the intoxicant they produce is naturally occurring.

A network of suppliers collects cheap beer from such units at Rs 500 for seven litres, which is then sold to end consumers, they claimed.

“How much is done in a day here?” asked the reporter.

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“It’s 100 liters a day. So if we sell this seven-litre bag at Rs 500, we will invest something around Rs 350 in it,” replied the brewer. “Each shopkeeper can sell 500 liters in a day. He will reach where he wants on his own. More than before the liquor ban came into effect. it’s now.”

DEAD ACTIVITY

Laced with chemicals like methanol and even pesticides to boost potency, the illegal drink has often been blamed for several deaths across the country.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 708 counterfeit liquors were consumed in India in 2021, resulting in 782 deaths nationwide that year.

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PROHIBITION RESPONSIBLE

But the series of alcohol poisonings in Bihar in 2022 has exposed the black market of cheap adulterated liquor in the prohibitionist state.

Those who are in the trade seem to be skillful in enforcement, or they do business in concert.

“Aren’t you afraid of the police?” asked the reporter.

“When the police come in we run. But people like you come here to drink too. You won’t believe that even the police come here to drink,” proclaimed the hookah maker.

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