Bihar mulls border ‘analysis tunnels’ to control alcohol smuggling

WITH AT LEAST 60 people have lost their lives after consuming illicit alcohol in the past four months and more than 1.93 crore liters of alcohol seized in more than five years since the ban was enforced in state, the government of Bihar is considering the use of “scanning tunnels” to prevent the smuggling of alcohol from neighboring states of UP, Jharkhand and West Bengal, and Nepal.

“We will soon submit a Request for Proposals (RFP) to construct a sweeping tunnel each at the border points of Dobhi and Rajauli (Jharkhand in Bihar), Gopalganj and Bhabhua (UP in Bihar) and Dalkhola (Bihar in West Bengal)”, A senior excise department official told The Indian Express.

Installing five sweeping tunnels is expected to cost more than Rs 100 crore, he said. “Since UP and Jharkhand roads are mostly used for liquor smuggling, sweeping tunnels can be of great help. If a vehicle detours to avoid the tunnel, those routes will also have a police presence,” the official said.

The official said excise and prohibition enforcement teams are already using drones to track illegal alcohol makers in the state.

“A sweeping tunnel would be like a large artificial corridor through which a truck or other vehicle carrying goods would be invited to pass. It will work like the scanning system installed at airports but on a much larger scale since it has to scan the entire body of a truck from the top and sides,” an official said.

According to officials, a scanning tunnel is based on industrial technology with high-tech cameras capable of taking images of a package from all sides and software to decode product information into barcodes.

“A team of imaging experts will evaluate the scan on the monitors. It’s basically a mass scanner that can see through metal, cardboard and plastic,” another official said. He said that while “a normal scanner can detect any liquid”, the department hopes to procure equipment with “state-of-the-art technology capable of analyzing liquids by viscosity”.

On Tuesday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hosted a law and order review meeting where he urged excise officials to ‘make best use of technology’ to crack down on liquor dealers and manufacturers.

Since Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016, State Police and Excise Department have seized 1,93,75,564 liters of liquor, of which 67,97,254 liters is country liquor or “desi,” through October 2021. “Between January and October 2021 alone, we seized 5,15,488 liters of alcohol. This calls for new ways to control the influx of alcohol into the state” , said a senior police officer.

Official records show that a total of 60 people have died in back-to-back tragedies in Gopalganj, West Champaran, Nalanda, Saran and Buxar over the past four months.

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