Campaign against fake alcoholic beverages

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In a country where clandestine fake drug factories are occasionally discovered, the operation of counterfeit alcohol manufacturing facilities is unlikely to raise many eyebrows. Similar illegal life-saving drugs can harm or even kill patients in critical conditions. Ordinary people are unlikely to detect spurious editions of these drugs. In this case, what is prescribed and provided to save lives becomes an agent of non-cure, aggravation of the state of health or even death.

In the case of alcohol, the consumers are not patients and they drink alcoholic beverages—distilled or fermented—either routinely or, in severe cases, for reasons of addiction. Be that as it may, in keeping with the general trend in this country, adulteration of alcohol has also been practiced clandestinely for a long time. Like the occasional discovery of these illegal raw distilleries, there was yet another in a most unlikely location — the ground floor of a residential building — in Reazbagh, in the city’s Rampura. A gang, according to officials from the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), north, has been using the accommodation to brew fake alcoholic beverages of popular foreign brands for the past six months.

Thursday evening, during a DNC raid, three people including the leader were arrested. Ethanol, gasoline and charcoal powder as well as bottles of fake alcohol labeled as renowned brands of local and foreign origin as well as empty bottles were recovered from the den. A DNC official said the DNC will now be looking for those who provided new labels, which the gang stuck on bottles collected from traders selling junk, waste, used and discarded materials, to the gang.

Drinking wine or liquor in public is not socially approved here, although many members of upper-class society are not teetotalers and some of them have rich personal collections of foreign brands . They generally do not run the risk of drinking the fake contents of bottles with facsimile labels. This is because they source it from authentic sources. But those who do not have such reach and influence and who drink cheap alcohol are surely at risk.

In February last year, the death of 12 people from alcohol consumption in Dhaka and Bogura illustrates the low and high end of counterfeiting and contamination of breweries. Some members of a 41-person contingent from a media organization, who visited a resort town of Gazipur on an office visit, were apparently victims of professional misconduct. This was the case of two students from a private university. The death and hospitalization of those who drank such fake alcohol was a strong warning against fake sources of supply. But old habits die hard and there are incorrigible drinkers who barely check the source.

The Bogura case, on the other hand, concerned the purchase of alcohol in a homeopathic pharmacy. Raw brew made from alcohol is cheaper and is a potential killer. Those who consume this type of alcohol cannot afford expensive refined alcoholic beverages and are more likely to succumb to them.

Now that swanky hotels have been legally allowed to retain foreign and local branded alcohol, drinkers at least have the option of collecting genuine booze. Instead of collecting the drink from a clandestine source, they can easily collect their prescribed quota from hotel bars. Under the legal parameter, there is virtually no health risk. But if the limit does not satisfy, the drinkers will have only themselves to blame. If no one got their supplies from underground sources, the demand for fake types would have dropped and the underground gang business would have failed. Will this great discretion be too much to expect from drinkers?

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