In Assam’s tea state, an uphill battle against a killer brew

  1. Recently, 168 people died in Golaghat and Jorhat districts of Assam after consuming illicit alcohol. Illicit alcohol is produced under unregulated circumstances and is often adulterated with chemicals like methanol, organo-phosphorus compounds and ethanol to save costs.
  2. The deaths in Assam had been due to alcohol poising from “Sulai”. Sulai is a form of liquor locally brewed in Assam. It is generally brewed from fermented molasses. Molasses is a by-product of sugar refining.
  3. In 2017, the Assam government had banned the Mahal system. Under this system, only few people controlled large part of the legal, quality-controlled sulai market. The government had introduced a new country spirit policy which allowed licensed manufacturers, spread across Assam, to produce hygienically packed sulai. Under the policy, IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) producers are allowed to sell the local liquor for an annual license fee of Rs. 20,000.
  4. The government also amended excise rules. The amendments seek to put in place a scientific system of bottling and trading of the country spirit in Assam.
  5. After the recent hooch tragedy, the Assam government has banned molasses from which sulai is brewed.
  6. Molasses is not listed in Section 3(1) (j) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which includes consumable food items. Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 consolidates relating to it. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was established under the Act. FFSAI is the apex body dealing with food safety and regulation in India