EC orders halt to production in five Punjab distilleries

Chandigarh, Jan 31 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday ordered a stop to production and supply of liquor from five distilleries in Punjab following a record haul of liquor in Bathinda district last week.

Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh and Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) V.K. Bhawra told the media here that the step has been taken after preliminary investigation revealed that the seized liquor came from these five distilleries.

Authorities seized 1.2 lakh bottles of liquor from two godowns in Bathinda district on Saturday. The liquor, including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and countrymade liquor and beer, was stored in 10,000 cartons.

Elsewhere in Punjab, thousands of bottles of liquor have been seized by authorities since the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct on January 5.

“Distilleries whose liquor was found during the raid have been told to stop production and dispatch. The EC is determined to check the flow of liquor and narcotics during the elections and all static and flying squads have been told to ensure proper checking,” Singh said.

Seeking public cooperation, the CEO said people can provide information regarding the distribution of liquor and narcotics to the authorities and be assured of prompt action.

Regarding complaints of misuse of gunmen by political leaders, Singh said 400 security personnel have been withdrawn from protectees.

The EC had earlier got 1,200 securitymen withdrawn from protectees found ineligible for security under the rules.

Singh said he held a video conference with the Chief Secretaries and DGPs of neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir and Adviser to UT Chandigarh’s Administrator and asked for sealing of their respective states’ and union territory’s borders with Punjab 48 hours prior to the February 4 elections to ensure free and fair voting.

“Non-voters will not be allowed to stay back in Punjab and will have to leave the state 48 hours before elections. The EC is fully vigilant to check the inducement of voters by liquor, money and narcotics and strict monitoring of the situation was being done at constituency and commission levels,” he said.

“We have seized 4 kg heroin in Amritsar district. This is the largest seizure of narcotics after the imposition of the Model Code. The neighbouring states will also close liquor vends located in the 3-km border belt adjoining Punjab during this period,” Singh added.

ADGP Bhawra said police had, till date, rounded up 5,573 trouble-makers and taken 4,147 others in preventive custody to ensure peaceful elections.

Bhawra said a record 94 per cent of all licensed weapons have been deposited in all the districts.

Singh said the EC had identified 4,840 vulnerable hamlets and 786 critical polling stations and all arrangements have been ensured there for free and fair elections.

Voting for 117 assembly seats will take place on February 4. The counting will take place on March 11.

–IANS

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