In the wee hours of July 24, daredevil accomplices of a bootlegger scaled the walls of a police station in Gandhinagar and drove away with a van carrying 204 bottles of liquor. The vehicle, abandoned by the driver on being challenged by a police patrol on the national highway, had been seized hours earlier. A month earlier, in Botad on June 24, a liquor-laden SUV turned around and rammed a police jeep that was giving chase. Two policemen were killed, many injured. And in another instance of bootlegger menace, on June 12, Amit Chanderpal, 27, was beaten to death for objecting to the sale of liquor near his house, not far from Sabarmati Ashram. His anguished neighbours went on a retaliatory rampage and set the bootleggers’ vehicles on fire.
In honour of the Mahatma, Gujarat has been a dry state since its creation. But to this day, liquor of all kinds, from hooch to the best foreign labels, is available, like it always has been. Bootlegging is worth Rs 30,000 crore annually, by conservative estimates. There are huge payoffs to police and politicians. Haftas are at well-defined rates; it’s even decided how much liquor bootleggers will turn in so that police can keep up a pretence of activity by showing seizures in the record books.