BIJNOR: Forest officials, who have tightened vigil in the wake of the latest hooch deaths, claim that rampant illicit liquor making in forest areas along the Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand border has adversely affected not just humans but wild animals too.
Sources in the forest department said that there have been several instances where wild animals, especially elephants, have gone berserk by consuming spurious liquor manufactured in illegal dens located in the Hastinapur sanctuary.
According to sources, most of the illicit liquor making units are spread along the banks of the Ganga, its tributaries and close to the forests – in areas mostly inaccessible to the excise department officials and police. Forest officials said that the smell of liquor attracts elephants which go berserk after consuming it in excess quantities.
Speaking to TOI, Salil Kumar Shukla, former divisional forest officer of Bijnor, said that several illicit liquor making units are located close to the forest area, with most of the residents of border areas being involved in the trade. He added that the smell attracts elephants, monkeys and wild boars who go on a rampage after consuming hooch. “Similar instances have happened in the forest areas too on many occasions. Though there is a provision that no brewery should be set up within a radius of 5 km from the forests, this is being violated with impunity by illicit liquor making rackets. The business thrives not just in Bijnor district but across the Shivalik range,” said Shukla.
A forest official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said, “Amangarh Tiger Reserve is home to around 35 elephants. Jumbos from Corbett reserve also wander in the area. The forest area is bordered by sugarcane fields which also double up as hideouts for illicit liquor rackets. The smell of hooch draws elephants to the area.”
According to sources, an elephant had died due to excessive consumption of illicit liquor close to Amangarh over eight months ago. In 2016, three elephants had gone on a rampage in Rehar’s Inter College. Villagers had then claimed that the pachyderms went berserk after consuming spurious liquor.
Najibabad’s divisional forest officer Akhilesh Mishra, said, “In the wake of the deaths in Saharanpur, we have increased patrolling in the forest areas.”