In 1997, the RJP government in Gujarat formed the State Prohibition Department, armed with 3,000 policemen and dozen IPS officers. It could not stop trafficking of alcohol, but effectively controlled bootleggers. Not a single hooch tragedy was reported in its time.
But in 2006, BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi decided to dismantle the department to strengthen the state police force, which is facing a 28 per cent shortfall. The result -- prohibition-related crimes shot up by 26 per cent.
"There used to be a lot of duplication of work when the Prohibition Department existed and therefore merging the departments does not create any different situations," Gujarat Cabinet Minister Jay Narayan Vyas said.
The illicit liquor tragedy in Gujarat is claiming more and more lives each day. Nearly 130 people have now died, and many others have lost their eyesight.
"While policemen try to ensure that no terrorist attack takes place along with handling VVIP movements, they fail to handle liquor smuggling or manufacturing illegally. They have been crying for more strength," said M M Mehta, former Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad.
The recent hooch tragedy is clearly a result of failed policing. Recognising the failure, the Modi government has decided to build a similar crack team on the 1997 model to counter the liquor mafia.
The state government is also planning to revise laws to make punishments tougher.
But it seems like a meaningless cycle - building, breaking and rebuilding teams to enforce prohibition. Precious human lives are lost in the process.