The Haryana government on Tuesday took cognisance of an HT report on the rebottling and sale of fake premium alcohol in Gurugram and Faridabad, with deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala ordering that special teams be formed to crack down on the counterfeit liquor business in the state.
HT on Tuesday reported on the booming racket where traders buy used, high-end liquor bottles from scrap dealers, fill them with cheap whisky, slap on new labels and caps, seal them and sell them to vendors, shops, and even bars.
Hours after the report was published, Chautala — who is also the state excise and taxation minister — told HT that the state government will work to stamp down on the sale of fake liquor in the state.
He also said action will also be taken against liquor companies if such liquor is found in shops.
“It is also the responsibility of the brands to keep a check on their sales, and they should collect samples for testing. Brands are liable to check the dispatch of their consignment, hologram and batch number mentioned on the liquor. If there are irregularities even after that, then the concerned brand will face legal action,” he said.
Gurugram deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav told HT that the state government’s order will be implemented immediately. Meanwhile, the Gurugram and Faridabad excise departments on Wednesday swung into action and began checks at outlets and liquor shops.
Inspectors combed through liquor stores and bars to ensure bottles bore holograms and batch numbers, and if the labels wear those assigned by the excise department.
“The district administration and Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) will also work towards disposing used liquor bottles properly. They will be crushed using rollers,” said Yadav.
HT spoke to scrap dealers; members of gangs that pour whisky under ₹350 in used bottles of premium whisky brands such as Black Label, Glenlivet, Red Label, and Macallan, among others; an online vendor; members of the Haryana chief minister’s flying squad; Gurugram police officials; and excise officers to understand the nexus behind reduced liquor prices in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The illicit business has rumbled on unchecked for years in Gurugram, with little action by the police and excise officers so far.
During its investigation, HT reached out to Diageo India — the global liquor firm that produces brands such as Johnnie Walker Black Label, Red Label, and Double Black — which denied the existence of a spurious liquor market and called it “an unsubstantiated rumour ahead of the festive season”.
The Diageo spokesperson said, “We have not received any complaint from consumers, nor have we found any spurious liquid in our rigorous routine testing. We have stringent mechanisms in place to safeguard our product, which includes a robust blockchain-based track-and-trace system for every bottle, wherein smart tamper-proof labels help us track each transaction as the product moves through the entire value chain right till a customer’s shelf.”
On Tuesday, the deputy CM said efforts are being made to identify a third party to conduct these lab tests to ascertain if the alcohol is genuine or not.
“The reports of tests conducted by the companies mostly found nothing spurious. We will have to get them cross-checked. We will also start collecting cases of liquor to check if spurious bottles are mixed in the cases,” said Chautala.
In a bid to stop this illicit business, Naresh Kumar, joint commissioner of the MCG, said that the collected liquor bottles will be crushed at the material recovery facilities (MRFs) in the city. “We will deploy one person to crush the bottles. If empty bottles of premium liquor are still sold in the market, action will be taken against that official for negligence,” he said.
Apart from this, Gurugram deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav said the district administration and MCG will keep a check on the sale of liquor bottles by scrap dealers. “We will keep a check on scrap shops, and an awareness drive will also be launched in the district so that no scrap dealer or ragpicker will sell these to anyone who can reuse them. Action will be taken against ragpickers and scrap dealers if they are found selling the premium alcohol bottles,” he said.