As a case was filed against him for not meeting the increasing demand for bribes by the police, an illicit liquor shop owner took his revenge
On 27 June, a stocky man in a white shirt walked into the office of the Superintendent of Police, Coimbatore. He had a petition to submit with a rather intriguing plea.
45-year-old V Prabhu told The Lede he had brought this petition because he had decided to turn over a new leaf and leave his illegal business behind. “No one should suffer the way I have and these businesses need to be stopped,” he said.
The petition submitted by Prabhu, if proven true, provides a view into the large racket being run by liquor shop owners, politicians and the police. A clear nexus, with rates for bribes, emerges in his telling of the tale.
Prabhu stated that he himself ran a small shop that illegally sold liquor. By his own admission it was a “sillarai madhubana kadai”, a petty shop that sold liquor illicitly.
“A total of 36 illegal liquor stores function in Valparai,” said Prabhu, a resident of Stanmore Estate in Valparai. “All of these are run with permission from Inspector Murugesan.”
Prabhu who also goes by the name Deva, was in this business for two years. On June 05 though, trouble began.
As was his routine, Prabhu had collected a total of Rs 4.2 lakhs as bribes from the illegal liquor shops as well as the illegal lottery shops and handed the amount over to the constable Karunakaran and police writer Kalidas, according to Prabhu.
The breakup of the bribe amount is below.
36 illegal liquor shops @ Rs 10,000 each = Rs 3.6 lakh
4 illegal lottery shops @ Rs 15,000 each = Rs 60,000
Total bribe amount = Rs 4.2 lakhs
Apart from this amount that went to the local police station, an SBCID (Special Branch Criminal Investigation Department) constable Mujib also got Rs 2000 from each illegal liquor store and Rs 5000 from each lottery shop.
36 illegal liquor shops @ Rs 2000 each = Rs 72,000
4 illegal lottery shops @ Rs 5000 each = Rs 20,000
Total bribe amount = Rs 92,000
This amount was to be split between various police personnel in the area.
After one week of allowing illicit liquor to be sold openly, one Sub-Inspector whose name too is Prabhu, informed constable Karunakaran and the petitioner Prabhu, that henceforth liquor must be sold surreptitiously.
“This affected my business,” says the petitioner Prabhu.
On June 23, Home Guard Selladurai and SBCID Inspector Mujib arrived at Prabhu’s store and took away 6 bottles to the police station, according to the petition.
“Normally the police would let us go after registering a case and we would pay a station bail of Rs 5000 if bottles were brought to the station. But this time Inspector Murugesan demanded Rs 60,000,” said Prabhu.
Prabhu alleges that Inspector Murugesan told him that he had to pay the new SP, the new DSP and the journalists working in Valparai area and if Prabhu coughed up the entire amount, he would let him go.
At this a frustrated Prabhu reminded the Inspector that he had, at the beginning of the month, handed over the entire bribe amount from all the illicit liquor and lottery shops to the station.
He asked the Inspector how he expected his business to go on if he repeatedly kept asking for money in this manner and also created obstacles. “I kept telling the Inspector I don’t have the money,” said Prabhu. “That is why they filed a false case against me.”
Prabhu, who was brought in at 7.15 am was booked late in the night. Having spent the night at the police station, the next day he was to appear before a magistrate for remand.
“I was told by Inspector Murugesan that I should say yes to whatever the magistrate asked and then I could come out on bail,” said Prabhu. “But when I got to the court I realised that the police had filed a case stating they found 16 bottles from my store. The reality was they took only six. Even newspapers reported it at that time,” he said.
The magistrate, seeing that he had a prior case against him, sent him to jail. Prabhu, although he got out on bail, was wounded and decided to take on those who put him in this predicament.
In his petition, Prabhu also details other illegal activities undertaken by the police personnel.
“The Inspector has given permission to three TASMAC outlets to charge an extra Rs 10 to Rs 20 per bottle. For this permission, he gets a bribe of Rs 10,000 per week from each store, totalling Rs 30,000 a week,” he alleged. This bribe also includes permission for the three TASMAC outlets to run illegal bars, according to him.
TASMAC is Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation which has a monopoly over liquor retail in the state.
A comprehensive list of the owners of these illegal liquor outlets and bars as well as the lottery shops in Valparai, along with the mobile numbers of the same, was handed over to the SP’s office along with Prabhu’s petition.
The names include local leaders of both the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), the two biggest parties in the state.
Prabhu has demanded that departmental action be taken against Inspector Murugesan, writer Kalidas, constable Karunakaran and the SBCID’s Mujib who he alleges, are hand in glove with the illicit liquor business in Valparai.
The Lede contacted one of the names in Prabhu’s list that kept recurring – AST Sekar.
Denying that he was in the illicit liquor business, Sekar said – “All of it is untrue. He (Prabhu) was jealous because he did not get a bar permit. I have been in this profession for many years. I do not prepare illicit liquor,” he said.
The Lede also attempted to contact the Coimbatore Superintendent of Police for his comments on what action would be taken on the petition. So far we have not heard from him and this copy will be updated when he responds.