The rampant use of cheap and low quality liquor has become a cause of tremendous health hazard among the poor people in tea garden areas of Lakhimpur district.
In the context of recent hooch tragedy affecting tea garden areas in state’s Golaghat and Jorhat districts, the uncontrolled availability of bootleg liquour in Lakhimpur district is a serious matter of concern.
The ten tea gardens of Lakhimpur district—Harmutty, Dolahat, Silanibari, Dejoo, Zoihing, Koilamari, Chinataliyah, Seajuli, Ananda and Madhupur and their nearby areas are infamous for bootleg liquour and has a thriving industry.
The weekly haats and daily evening bazars in these areas are the main centre of this illicit trade where country made liquor (Sulai) is sold in every eatery, kiosks and in open spaces.
The main source of this liquour is the Bhatis, where it is brewed with toxic materials and acids like methanol. A suspected contaminant found in the bootleg alcohol, methanol—can add an additional lethal aspect to the concoction.
Similarly the Sulai and Hariya are also brewed in many households inside and outside the tea gardens of the district. The consumers of this liquor are mostly tea garden people.
According to experts, methanol, the simplest alcohol, consisting of a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group, is often added to bootleg alcohol as it is inexpensive, and makes the final product seem far stronger than that of alcohol alone. In this way the illicit alcohol becomes far cheaper than that bought in an IMFL stores, as well as far stronger.
This makes it appealing to those who cannot afford the brands sold in stores. The consumption of such liquour led to the death of 10 persons in Lakhimpur in 2009 which was an example of the health hazards of this illicit trade.
There are regular cases of deaths among the tea garden people in Lakhimpur due to continued consumption of spurious liquour. But mostly such deaths are attributed to malaria—a disease very common in tea garden areas of Lakhimpur bordering the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh.
Notably the brewing of these bootleg liquour has been carried out by a particular community living near the tea garden areas of Lakhimpur district. Their women folk are often seen selling the liquour on the road sides of these areas making the availability more rampant.
To add more misery, cheap and low quality IMFL distilled and brewed in Arunachal Pradesh is also causing tremendous health hazard among the poor people in Lakhimpur district. The liquor made in the form of whisky has claimed lives of many people and ruined several families, who are mostly residents of the district living in the tea garden areas on Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
The most dangerous part of this IMFL is the supply of products with expiry dates due to the peripheral location of the affected areas. The liquor bottles are transported through the border routes where there are no check points like Zumi-Zoihing, Kakoi-Rajgarh, Dulungmukh and other areas.
Similarly border areas of the district near Narayanpur also have become epicentres of illegal IMFL trade from Arunachal Pradesh. Places like Bhogpur, Madhupur, Gosala, Durpang, Sonaljuli, Simaluguri, Rangati, Dhalpur, Narayanpur, Jarabari FCI goodown are the known centres of liquour trade that has been going on despite the presence of state excise department.
The district excise officials and police allegedly collect regular booty from liquor makers and sellers in exchange of uninterrupted trade.