Latest statistics of the Excise and Police Departments reveal that 97,000 illicit liquor dens have been detected within the year 2015 alone. This means that an average of 270 raids have been conducted per day and it follows that a raid has been conducted every five minutes daily.
With the advent of COVID-19 virus pandemic, the decision was taken by the government to shut down bars and liquor shops, aimed at promoting social distancing, a mandatory condition to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus in the country.
However, when the ban was one day temporarily lifted in low-risk districts, it had to be re-imposed on the following day as large crowds flocked to bars and liquor shops neglecting social distancing guidelines. It must be noted that the Government is losing estimated Rs.15bn monthly tax revenue due to the island-wide ban on the manufacture and sale of liquor.
Unfortunately, the ban caused many home breweries to pop up across the country; as many are unaware of the laws prohibiting alcohol promotion in the country. Despite the ban, alcohol is being sold at four times the normal price in the black market. Due to excessive prices many have resorted to illicit liquor by setting up small units to distil spirits in their own homes and some are distributing these spirits within their neighbourhoods.
These home-brewed spirits contain harmful substances posing significant risks to the health of individuals as much as COVID-19 health risks. Further, the authorities are also blaming a series of video tutorials shared on social media platforms for the recent spike in home breweries. Many are sharing these video tutorials without being aware of the laws prohibiting any kind of promotions of alcohol in the country.
The Excise Department with the support of the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) plans to pursue legal action against these individuals when the curfew is lifted. As it remains a challenging task for the authorities to contain the recent spike in home breweries.
Still manufacture and consumption of illicit liquor goes on unabated. Political patronage received by illicit liquor barons coupled with bribery and corruption on the part of Government agencies tasked with prevention and detection of this menace, remain the drawbacks. Perhaps the authorities will soon put a stop to this illegal and harmful activity if the country is to build a healthy nation for all!