[Answered] Given the recent incidents in Tamil Nadu, what elements should a uniform and comprehensive policy include to counter the problem of spurious or illicit liquor?

Introduction: Give context to the recent Hooch tragedy.

Body: Describe the causes responsible and measures to resolve the problem of illicit liquor.

Conclusion: Way forward.

The recent incident involving the death of 17 persons after consuming spurious liquor has again raised the issue of the sale of illicit liquor in Tamil Nadu. In India, hundreds of deaths are attributed to illegal booze, which is frequently poisoned with lethal methanol. According to estimates, 40% of the alcohol consumed in the nation comes from illegal sources.

What is the cause which gives rise to the problem of spurious or illicit liquor?

  • Unorganized sector: Country-made liquor is mainly produced by local breweries. The unorganized sector accounts for almost 100% of the country-made liquor production. This sector is prone to corruption, and unregulated, which leads to hooch tragedy incidents.
  • Methyl Alcohol: Easy availability of methyl alcohol or furniture polish in India is purchased by local vendors at nominal prices to produce illicit liquor.
  • Lack of regulatory controls: Illegal or illicit liquor is manufactured mostly in villages on farmlands where it is difficult to inspect the area by regulatory authorities and hence liquor is of substandard quality.
  • Price: The main reason for the rise in spurious liquor is it fills the demand for booze which remains unmet on account of the difference in the prices of Indian Made Foreign liquor and illegal liquor. The WHO reckons that “unrecorded” alcohol makes up more than half of all alcohol consumed in India.
  • State policies: Different states in India have different policies on liquor. For eg, liquor is banned in Bihar, Gujarat but it has created a flourishing underground illicit liquor business supported by bordering states.

How can we tackle the issue of illicit liquor?

  • Targeting of illicit raw material used: The administration should use local informants and their network to target the vendors which are responsible for selling sub-standard raw materials and poisonous chemicals used for making spurious liquor.
  • Timely inspections: The state government should plan regular and massive raids in rural areas where there is major production of illicit liquor. It would help break down the links of illegal production units.
  • Uniform and comprehensive policy: the policy should bring uniformity regarding liquor laws in all states. It should take measures like increasing the legal age of drinking, spreading awareness regarding de-addiction and rehabilitation centers & zero tolerance for illicit liquor.
  • Use of Technology: Regular “test purchases” exercise by Excise Department to check overpricing. GPS-equipped vehicles are utilized to track the movement of molasses and alcohol inside the state, and CCTV cameras are used in distilleries and retail shops to curb illegal trade. The government also plans to use Whatsapp and Toll-free no to register complaints or share information regarding the manufacture, sale, and smuggling of illicit liquor.


Government and society both need to take a practical approach to deal with illicit liquor with cooperation from bordering states.

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