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Monday 22 June 2015

Hooch tragedy: Khadse fails acid test

Hooch tragedy: Khadse fails acid test


Had Eknath Khadse been the leader of opposition, in the aftermath of the Malwani hooch tragedy, he would have demanded the resignation of the excise and home minister and suspension of additional and deputy commissioners of police and excise superintendent of the suburban district. However, now that Khadse himself is the excise minister, nearly a week after the deaths, he has not taken action against any high-ranking official in the home or excise department and has instead suspended only the lower-rung personnel. The recent tragedy is almost a repeat of the 2004 Vikhroli illicit liquor case, which had claimed 87 lives.

The then home minister Chhagan Bhujbal had suspended 57 police officers, including two zonal deputy commissioners of police. Subsequently, while a few accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, the suspension of all the accused cops was revoked and they were promoted as per schedule. The court had passed strictures against the home department for its failure to book the erring police officers for abetment to crime. It had felt that the cops should have been made accused. It seems that over the last decade, since the Vikroli tragedy, the law-enforcing agencies have failed to keep a check on the illicit liquor trade in the metropolis and the state owing to rampant corruption and dereliction of duty at all levels.

In 2004, it was found that there was a well-oiled mechanism for distribution of illicit liquor in entire Vikroli. It had been a regular practice to mix methanol in ethanol to reduce the cost of liquor, despite knowing that methanol is poisonous. In the recent Malwani slums' case too, the same formula was used. A former excise commissioner said that besides stringent action against high-ranking officials, suspended cops should be made accused for abetment. 

Swift rejig at DGIPR 

Director general of information and public relations (DGIPR) Chandrashekhar Oke, the mastermind behind the government's image, sent his entire department into shock as he shunted out 100-odd employees on a single day. Despite the enactment of the stringent transfer laws, Oke transferred the employees and relieved them on the same day, leaving no scope for political or bureaucratic pressure. Oke had found that these employees had been holding various departments for as long as 10 to 15 years. But notwithstanding any opposition from any staffer and their political godfathers, Oke has shunted them out. However, though Oke has completed the exercise, the bigger challenge before him will be to fill up the director posts across the state. In Mumbai, the post of director has been vacant since August 2014, while in Nagpur since last three years. More shocking is that the post of Marathwada director is vacant ever since its creation in 2002. Successive chief ministers, including Devendra Fadnavis, have attempted to fill up the Marathwada post, but no one has succeeded. 

Netas follow CM to BMC 

CM Devendra Fadnavis' surprise visit to the BMC's disaster management control room on Friday galvanized not only the civic machinery, but also some politicians. After the weather bureau informed the CM's office about the possibility of heavy rains and high tide on Friday, Fadnavis found that the rail network had collapsed and the city had come to a grinding halt due to water-logging and dismal desilting. The CM was told that while the BMC had spent an estimated Rs 1,000 crore on desilting during the last 10 years, the results were not visible. Accompanied by chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya, Fadnavis immediately reached the BMC control room to do a ground check. At the control room, Fadnavis was briefed by commissioner Ajoy Mehta and his deputy Sanjay Deshmukh on the preparedness of the disaster management cell. When Fadnavis left the control after 20 minutes, little did he know that his visit would also have a political impact. Later in the day, other politicians like school education minister Vinod Tawde, industries minister Subhash Desai, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and Yuwa sena chief Aditya Thackeray too trickled in to check the cell's functioning.

India's Mumbai mourns dozens killed by toxic alcohol


Toxic Liquor in India Kills at Least 84

Moonshine kills at least 94 in Mumbai slum

Malvani hooch tragedy: Did lack of planning lead to too many deaths?

Malvani hooch tragedy: Mumbai crime branch arrest two more as death toll touches 97

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