After over 40 years, the state government has hiked the rewards given to state excise officials and informers who crack cases of liquor smuggling, duty evasion and bootlegging.
The previous policy, which was formulated in 1976, gave a pittance of up to Rs 500 to officials and informers regardless of the type of the case and value of the seizure. At times, members of the raiding team contributed money as ‘baksheesh’ (prize) to informers for the tip-off. The state government has now increased this reward to over Rs 10 lakh depending on the type of the case.
“Under the new policy, committees under the district superintendents will have powers to sanction rewards up to Rs 50,000. It will be up to Rs 1 lakh for the divisional deputy commissioners, Rs 2 lakh for the director (vigilance and enforcement), up to Rs 10 lakh for the excise commissioner. For amounts above Rs 10 lakh, the approval will have to come from a committee under the additional chief secretary or principal secretary of the state excise department,” said a senior state excise official.
During their service tenure, officials will be able to get a maximum reward of Rs 25 lakh. While the names of the informers will be kept confidential, the money will be given to them through the official whom they tipped off. The reward for state excise officials will be between 5 to 7% of the based on the amount of excise duty saved due to the preventive action or the amount of liquor, beer, mohua flowers, toddy or duplicate liquor seized, whichever is less and 5% for informers and private individuals.
State excise officials admitted that the paltry amount given out earlier inhibited their ability to expand their network of informers or adequately compensate them after a successful raid based on these tip-offs. A strong informers network due to higher rewards will also help strengthen ground-level intelligence collection about hooch and liquor smuggling and duplication rackets.
Officials claimed that some unscrupulous informers, when they were unable to extract a promise from officials for a substantial reward, chose to first tip them off and later strike a deal with smugglers or bootleggers to help them evade the dragnet.
Of the around 3,600 officials and staff in the department, around half—largely sub-inspectors–are based at manufacturies for supervision. Up to 1974, the department had no punitive powers like the police, which were later granted to inspectors and subsequently to sub-inspectors in 1991. Up to 1985, these officials checked consumption permits of those coming to wine shops and permit rooms for drinking.
Maharashtra follows a policy of discouraging liquor consumption through high prices and low sales and has one of the highest excise duty regimes in India. However, neighbouring states and union territories like Goa and Daman have comparatively liberal policies and the cheaper costs of liquor there lead to a huge incentive for smugglers and bootleggers to smuggle in the brew to Maharashtra. With neighbouring Gujarat under prohibition, Maharashtra has also become a transit point for transporting liquor from states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to the dry state.