A scanty media report about the seizure of 250 cases of wine being transported in a car in Uttar Pradesh near Delhi yesterday and arrest of two persons by the local police is rather intriguing simply because it is physically impossible to carry that much quantity in a car and why wine of this magnitude would be transported illegally, wonders Subhash Arora.
A report dateline October 8 in PTI says ‘About 250 cases of wine, worth around Rs six lakh (600,000), were today seized from a car in Pilkhuwa Ghaziabad District town near here, police said.’
The car was apparently intercepted by police near a railway crossing, Senior Superintendent of Police Raghubir Lal said adding, two occupants of the vehicle, identified as Kapil Mittal and Kapil Kumar, were arrested.
Apart from the fact that it is impossible to get so many cases in a car, the value of Rs.600,000 for 250 cases (3000 bottles) means each bottle costs Rs. 200 on average. One would be hard pressed to find a decent bottle of wine in that price range-and worth smuggling or transporting illegally. One cannot stop wondering what would be illegal enough to arrest the men-there is no manufacturing or wine production in or around Pilkhuwa, a small town in the Ghaziabad District in Uttar Pradesh, Near Delhi.
The liquor trade in UP is controlled by the liquor king Ponty Chadha who is known to be very close to Madam Mayawati, the Chief Minister of UP. He is now close to becoming the sugar Baron by buying a string of sick sugar mills at special prices, less than Reserve price in recent auctions because of the patronage by Madame. Every bottle sold in UP has to go through his organisation. Attempts to reach him to seek clarification were futile.
The only plausible explanation could be that the contraband was cases of whiskey, rum, vodka or such liquor which was being smuggled out from a nearby manufacturing facility without payment of excise duty, a common occurrence routinely and strongly denied by every stakeholder in the liquor industry. Not only is the exchequer cheated of the lawful revenue in such cases, such figures do not show in the statistics tabulating consumption of liquor which at around 500 million cases does not include the 250 cases seized or millions more taken out through several conniving schemes. No such cases of duty evasion have been reportedly seen in the Indian wine industry so far.
If in reality this were the case, PTI, being a national press agency, needs to be censured for insensitive reporting, talking of wine instead of liquor and making itself less credible by mentioning the car as the mode of transportation.
It would also validate further the contention of delWine that wine is still lumped with liquor (sharaab) in India- posing a hurdle in the development of wine culture.
October 9, 2010