In a continuing exposure of the CPM'slinks with the illicit liquor trade in the state, 10,500 litres of spirit valued at over one crore of rupees was seized by an excise team from the residence of Sreekumari, wife of Bhaskaran, Alapuzha CPM district committee member and president of Pathiyoor Panchayat. But the irony of the raid, conducted at Meenatheril Devi Sadanam at Kariyilakunlangara near Kayamkulam in Alapuzha district, was that the excise party led by Chengannur Circle Inspector Jayakumar was brutally attacked by the CPM and DYFI men led by Ajikumar, Harikumar and Manoj. Jayakumar, who was brutally hacked in the head, had to undergo a surgery at Kollam by neuro-surgeons rushed from Thiruvananthapuram and is in a critical stage. The other officials Suresh, Prasanth Soman Pillai and Asokan are also in critical stages.
Kerala despite its several achievements, especially in education and health care sector, has also certain dubious records to its credit. It is the state with the largest number of suicides, family suicides, molestation and rape of minor girls, thriving sex rackets and lastly the second-largest consumer of liquor in India, next to Punjab. Since the supply chain cannot meet with the demand, smuggled spirit is imported into the state from Tamil Nadu/Karnataka and illicit liquor is manufactured. This multi-crore business cannot survive without the political support and patronage and hence the spirit mafia-police-politico nexus. The spirit mafia is one of the major suppliers to the coffers of both the LDF and the UDF.
Earlier the support to the liquor mafia was on the sly after the infamous Vypeen tragedy in the later part of eighties, which killed scores. But during the CPM regime of 1996-2001, the link between the party and liquor mafia became more explicit. In the aftermath of the Kalluvathickal illicit liquor tragedy in which scores lost their lives and several their eye-sight, an exemplary enthusiasm was allegedly visible on the part of the then CM E.K. Nayanar'spolitical secretary Sasi to shield the accused Manichan and Hairunissa and to save them. It was a common knowledge that Nayanar'swife used to go to Guruvayoor in Manichan'simported Benz car and that Nayanar'sson Krishnakumar and son-in-law were having business relations with Manichan. Moreover, seeing the lucrative profits in the illicit liquor trade, many state and local-level CPM leaders started head-on into the hooch business, kicking away earlier benefactors.
With the CPM once again in power, local-level CPM leaders have restarted their hooch business and the seizure of spirit and attack on excise party is a sample of the events to be unveiled shortly. Moreover, with group rivalry between V.S. and Pinarayi becoming more intense, the excise department is flooded with calls from both groups giving information on spirit hideouts of the rival faction. In fact, in this case, Bhaskaran is a staunch Pinarayi loyalist and the grapevine has it that excise officials were tipped off by V.S. men. With P.K. Gurudasan, being only one among the two V.S. loyalists in the entire cabinet of 20 ministers, the Excise Minister, the war between the CPM camps and their illicit liquor goons is only going to increase. The opposition UDF (not saints either) and BJP have alleged that the top guns of the CPM are involved in the hooch business and efforts are on to make Bhaskaran and his wife scapegoats. They have demanded a high-level probe by a DIG rank official. They also alleged that the son of a top CPM leader is the kingpin of the spirit mafia and that the Police Circle Inspector investigating the case is a relative of a top CPM functionary. Thus, every effort is being made to water down the case.
Meanwhile, according to media reports, Kayamkulam is becoming the nerve-centre of hooch business in South Kerala as per a report of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which is lying in cold storage due to the politician-police-liquor mafia nexus. According to the reports, seizures of spirit from cars belonging to CPM and UDF leaders have been a regular feature in Alapuzha district.
The association of excise officers has said that repeated pleas for modernising the force and issue of weapons have fallen on deaf ears. While they have only lathis and dilapidated jeeps, the liquor mafia has new-generation vehicles, communication equipments and modern weapons. They also alleged that they do not get police help during raids and in certain cases police leak news of raids to the liquor mafia.
With the Onam season fast approaching, in which Kerala guzzles in lakhs of litres of liquor, let us hope and pray that CPM'sgroup war and the liquor mafia do not gift Kerala another Vypeen or Kalluvathickal.