Tourists can carry liquor: Morcha

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Nov 11: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said tourists would be allowed to carry liquor to the hills, but warned that the same relief would not be extended to local people.

Cars with liquor in them will be seized and the vehicles will be used by Gorkhaland Personnel for six months — a “punishment” for hill residents who would dare to flout the Morcha “ban” on the sale of alcohol.

“The GLP will conduct strict checks on all vehicles from tomorrow. If cars are found carrying liquor bottles, they will be seized and used for a six month period by the GLP as a penalty,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson for the party after a central committee meeting in Patlabas.

Although few hill residents would speak out in public, many agreed in private that the Morcha should differentiate between carrying a bottle for personal consumption and bringing cartons for business. “No one likes to be checked by the GLP who have no legal standing,” said a resident of the town.

Earlier, too, the GLP, a voluntary squad of the Morcha, had posted itself along the highway, confiscating, what they claimed was “smuggled” liquor from Sikkim, but of late the activity had been scaled down. The government had declared the GLP act of checking cars and seizing liquor bottles illegal. This time, too, the district administration said it would take strong action against GLP policing.

“Movement of liquor, bought from an authorised place, is not illegal. But checking vehicles, seizing them and confiscating alcohol is illegal. We will take strong action against such illegal activities,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta.

Asked whether drinking alcohol was banned, Chhetri said: “No, drinking has not been banned but we are trying to stop the inflow of revenue to the state exchequer through the sale of IMFL.”

However, the identity of tourists carrying alcohol will be verified by the GLP. This only means more harassment for visitors, who may have to answer a volley of questions.

The Morcha has also asked the people to stop participating in “friendship” football matches that the police are currently organising in various villages to improve police-public relations. “We request teams to withdraw from the tournament,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha. Although Giri did not say why the soccer meets should be boycotted, it is suspected that the party does not want the men in khaki to interact closely with the people.

The Morcha has also decided to put its stamp of approval on the process of regularising the jobs of 3,000-odd contractual workers of the DGHC. “Recommendation for the regularisation must come from the local unit of the Morcha,” said Giri, hinting that it was the party’s way of “rewarding” loyal workers.

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