The illicit liquor manufacturing racket busted in Amritsar district’s Attari block was being run under the patronage of Chak Mishri Khan village sarpanch whose son has also been arrested in the case, senior police officials said.
The Congress sarpanch, Balwinder Kaur, is said to be a close of state cabinet minister Sukhbinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria.
Nearly 115 tonne lahan and 400 litre illicit liquor were recovered from at least 20 houses, including that of the sarpanch’s, during a 3-hour-long search-and-cordon operation in the village. Other recovered items included 10 stills, 16 tarpaulins, a water tank of 1,000 litre capacity, 20 drums, seven LPG cylinders and a car.
About 510-kg lahan, 40 litre illicit liquor and a still were found in Kaur’s house, a official said. A senior police official investigating the case said, “The villagers involved were running the illicit business without any fear as they thought they had the sarpanch’s patronage. We could not arrest other members of Kaur’s family due to some political pressure.”
Virsa Singh, a Jamhuri Kisan Sabha leader from the area, said the illicit liquor trade was being run in the village since the Congress came to power in 2017.
“Residents of the area had filed several complaints with the excise department and the police, but no action was taken. Balwinder Kaur was elected sarpanch unopposed,” he said.
Deputy superintendent of police (Attari) Gurpartap Singh Sahota said they were probing the role of all those involved directly or indirectly. “We are also identifying properties which the accused have amassed through illegal business for attachment,” he said.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Dhruv Dahiya said, “Over 50 per cent of the state’s total Excise Act cases have been registered in Amritsar in the last few months. Our teams are working round the clock to break the illegal chain.”
Minister Sarkaria didn’t respond to repeated calls and text messages.
Congress’ Amritsar (rural) district president Bhagwantpal Singh Sachar said, “It is the party’s clear-cut instruction that anybody involved in any illegal activity should be dealt as per the law. We appreciate the police’s action.”
A senior cop blamed the excise department officials for not taking action against the accused even as the racket was being run for more than one year.
“The five back-to-back rackets that we unearthed in less than a month were being run for more than one year. What were the excise officials doing?” he questioned.
Deputy commissioner (excise) Jaspinder Singh said, “All the recent operations were conducted by the police jointly with our department.”