Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday said the targeted attack by SAD against a senior and highly professional officer of Punjab Police was yet another shameful attempt by them to exploit the unfortunate hooch tragedy to push their own political agenda with an eye on the next Assembly polls in the state.
He was reacting to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Majithia’s statement accusing DGP Dinkar Gupta of `shielding’ SSP Amritsar Rural over the latter’s alleged failure to act on a complaint against the liquor mafia, leading to the tragedy.
There was no question or need of `shielding’ an officer who had an unblemished track record, including against drug and illicit liquor smugglers/ traders, said the Chief Minister, adding that SSP Dhruv Dahiya had, in fact, been on his personal security team. “A person with links with mafia, as was being suggested by the SAD, could hardly be trusted with my security,” he quipped. Noting that all SSPs and DCs were appointed directly by him, Captain Amarinder said the DGP or CS could not be held responsible for their actions in any case.
Contrary to what Majithia has been falsely claiming, the SSP had received no specific complaint from any citizen about manufacturing of hooch, said the Chief Minister. The SSP had absolutely no information about manufacture of illicit liquor or registration numbers of vehicles, as alleged by Majithia, he further said, trashing the SAD leader’s charges against the officer. In fact, said Captain Amarinder, if there had been even a suspicion of the SSP protecting or conniving with the liquor smugglers, he would have been the first to take action against the officer, as he had done against five others immediately after the tragedy came to light.
Expressing shock at SAD’s continued attempts to seize the major tragedy for promoting their own vested interests, Captain Amarinder said it reflected the appalling low that the party had touched in its desperation to connect with the people
The Chief Minister pointed out that the entire supply chain in the hooch tragedy, originating from Ludhiana and moving via Moga to Tarn Taran, Amritsar (Rural) and Batala was unearthed from investigation which was conducted by Amritsar (Rural) under the supervision of the said SSP.
During his year-long tenure as SSP Tarn Taran, Dahiya was responsible for major liquor seizures, amounting to 10921757 ml of illicit liquor, 51060 kg of lahan, 2160390 ml of English wine and 36 working stills. He had also cracked down on drugs in a big way, with 76.095 kg heroin recovered and 601 cases under NDPS Act were registered, along with 772 arrests, during his tenure there, said the Chief Minister, citing figures. Following Operation Red Rose, Tarn Taran Police, under Dahiya, had made daily illicit liquor recoveries which were amongst the highest in the state. In addition, he had led many successful operations against terror, narco-terrorists, gangsters etc.
Dahiya’s success in fighting liquor smuggling had continued since his transfer to Amritsar, on July 31, 2020, with a total of 269 FIRs registered under the Excise Act, along with illicit liquor seizure of 3050.070 litres, Lahan 10735 kg, working stills 11 and Alcohol 655.5 litres.
The Chief Minister said while small-scale manufacturing of illicit liquor had been going for years, with the police force under DGP Gupta, busting several modules in recent months, the lockdown resulting from Covid had spiked the demand for liquor due to non-availability of the same. Some of these liquor smugglers saw in this the opportunity to make a fast buck and started using all kinds of chemicals in the manufacture of the hooch, leading to the tragedy, he added.
Even amid the lockdown, pointed out the Chief Minister, the Punjab Police had continued with its crackdown on illegal liquor smuggling, with 8467 FIRs registered and 6864 persons arrested between May 17 and August 12, 2020. A total of 1,04,994 Ltrs of Illicit liquor, 1,81,640 Ltrs of Licit liquor and 16,21,258 kgs of Lahan were recovered, along with 12,365 Ltrs of Whisky, 199 Ltrs of Rum and 1,110 Ltrs of Beer, as well as 12,025 Ltrs of Spirit and seizure of 375 working stills.
Since January this year, a total of 11,708 FIRs have been registered and 10,639 persons have been arrested in this connection.