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Stop Drunken Brawls

Excise officials need to wake up and make bar owners abide by rules

A brawl in a bar in the middle of the night in Salcete allegedly led to a murder recently. The bar was operating illegally beyond the permissible time. The murder could have been prevented had the authorities enforced the closure time of 11 pm for bars. Though the 33-year-old victim was assaulted inside the bar, the accused and the bar owner tried to project that the fight took place elsewhere. Thanks to the closed circuit television cameras in the premises their alibi collapsed. The cameras had recorded the lethal assault. The bar owner was accused of washing away the blood from the places where it was spilled in the deadly attack. The murder could have gone undetected but for the strenuous efforts put in by police investigators who scanned the footage recorded by the CCTV cameras to get evidence.

It has now come to light that none of the 1,523 bars in Salcete have a licence to sell retail liquor beyond the deadline set by the government for closure of bars. Similar situation prevails in other parts of the state, making us wonder why excise officials have not been exercising their authority to enforce the closure time rules. Not that the officials of the excise department do not know that many bars are being kept open beyond 11 pm in all parts of the state.

If they say they do not know that would mean they have not been keeping their eyes open. It is intriguing to see then why they have not been penalizing the bar owners that have been openly violating the rules. The public would like to know the reasons. Is it staff shortage? Is it complacency? Is it collusion at the local level? Is it fear of bar owners going to their MLAs and the MLAs making noise? At least now that a life has been lost, the excise officials must be no more blind to the dangers of keeping bars open beyond 11 pm. The government should support them. We have to prevent crimes from taking place in the bars in the future.

It is not just that many bars operate beyond permissible time; they also serve snacks and food without having necessary licences. Though the rules pertaining to operation of bars are clear and specific they are not complied with by their owners. It is pertinent to note that an excise official in Salcete, while acknowledging the fact that bars remain open beyond permissible hours, warned that those keeping bars open would have to face consequences. It has been more than a week since the statement was made but we have not heard of any bar owner being booked for violation of rules. Have all bar owners started abiding by the rules or was the statement made for public consumption? Leave aside taking action against erring bar owners, it has come to light that the excise officials have hardly checked whether the bars had the requisite infrastructure as laid down in the rule book.  

In view of the fatal attack it is time the authorities enforce the writ of law and ensure that bars all over the state adhere to timings and other rules. Doctors at the Goa Medical College and Hospital have to treat scores of cases of assault in drunken brawls. The doctors say that easy availability of liquor was one of the main reasons for the prevalence of alcohol use disorders, like pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers and gastrointestinal problems, immune system dysfunction and brain damage. It is surprising to note that despite occurrence of assaults by drunkards being common, the state police do not maintain a separate record of cases relating to drunken brawls; they are clubbed with other assaults.

It is common for people to witness a drunken brawl at one or the other liquor vending establishment, most of which go unreported for obvious reasons. The authorities cannot afford to ignore such assault and crimes, even if they are committed in inebriated condition. It is necessary that the police compile reports of drunken brawls all over the state and devise ways and means to prevent such occurrences in the future to save lives.

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