Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, July 17:
The report of Justice AS Naidu Commission, which probed the hooch tragedy in Cuttack and Khurda in Odisha that had claimed 41 lives in 2012, has recommended a hike in value added tax (VAT) levied on medical preparations with high alcohol content to prevent such deaths.
Among the other recommendations of the report, which was presented in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, were action against illicit liquor distilleries, steps to control production, import of methyl alcohol and denature spirit, strengthening of enforcement squads of the drug controller and strict vigil on the alcohol supplied to and consumed by pharmaceutical units.
The report also suggested imposition of restrictions on production of medicines containing more than 20% alcohol content, formation of multi-department squads under the district Collector to collect information on illicit liquor, check on all homeopathy medicine stores twice a month and closing down of unregistered medicine stores.
The Commission has also suggested a toll free number to get complaints and financial assistance to the whistle-blowers.
It also recommended preparation of a data bank of all medicine manufacturers, opening of excise police stations at every police station in the state, engagement of adequate officials and setting up of excise check gates to stop inter-state illegal trading.
The Commission has recommended to the General Administration department stricter implementation of the Excise Act, 2008. It said the government must ensure that Collectors take the opinion of excise official before granting of No Objection Certificate (NOC) to medicine manufactures.
The commission also suggested that the state government should urge the Centre to restrict or regulate or prohibit drugs and medicinal preparations containing a high percentage of alcohol.
Further, the drugs department should ensure that each manufacturing unit possesses suitable equipment and laboratory for manufacturing the products for which license has been granted.
The commission also recommended that the government should bring the alcoholic liquid section of medicine workshop under the control of both the drugs and excise departments.
“The officers of drugs department will be at liberty to visit both alcoholic and non-alcoholic sections as many times as they can to prevent manufacture of any spurious, adulterated, mis-branded or sub-standard quality drugs. The same way, excise department officials can also visit non-alcoholic section of medicine workshop,” the commission recommended.
While the commission has recommended that the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) should be pursued to ban the drugs which are identified as being misused for the purpose of making ordinary alcoholic beverages since they contain high percentage of alcohol.
In its action taken report (ATR), the state government said it had moved the DCGI to ban “pharmacopoeia” preparations containing more than 20 per cent alcohol.
It is to be noted that the Commission was set up following the liquor tragedy that occurred in between 6th and 9th of February 2012 in Cuttack and Khurda districts in which 41 people were dead and many became physically disabled.
After the incident, the state government had ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter, under section 3 and 5-1 of Commission of Inquiry Act.