Thiruvananthapuram: A few government departments are notorious for graft and the hospitality sector is often pressurised to give bribes regularly. Several excise officials in five districts of Kerala have come under the scanner after the Federation of Kerala Hotels Association charged that bar owners are being asked to pay a hefty sum each month as bribe.
The hoteliers' association has submitted a complaint to the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau with details of the excise range and circles as well as the officials there who collect monthly bribe from them.
The complaints have been raised against the harassment by excise officials of Kannur, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam districts.
The complaint by Association President V Sunilkumar to Vigilance Director Anilkanth has specifically named officials of all excise ranges and circles in Kannur district, Thamarassery circle of Kozhikode district, Ottapalam- Mannarkadu circle and excise range of Palakkad district, Vadanappally excise circle in Thrissur district and both Perumbavur-Paravur circle and range in Ernakulam district.
The new complaint was submitted even as the Vigilance agency has begun a probe into the charges of monthly bribe collection by excise officials from 18 bar owners in Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district.
The complaint states that the officials collected bribe ranging from Rs 25,000 to 35,000 from each of the 54 bar owners in Kannur. The monthly bribes collected from the bars are distributed among officials with each official getting a specified sum. Apart from that the bar owners are forced to provide free liquor for parties on special occasions. If they refused to pay the amount, they are harassed with raids and measures to close down bars by producing false samples of liquors seized.
The owners fearing the harassment had been paying the bribe without any complaints. However, recently the association took a stand that there was no need to face this harassment endlessly. Hence, they decided to file a complaint.
In the complaint to the Vigilance honcho, the association has urged him to take strong measures against the corrupt officials so that the system of collecting monthly bribe is put to an end for all.
Tussle for key postings
The tussle for key excise postings in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakad districts and pressure tactics employed officials to get postings there are an open secret. These three districts have the most number of bars. Smart officials getting postings here get a hefty amount as bribe regularly.
It is alleged that many got appointments in such posts by paying bribe to the tune of Rs 20 lakh or more in the past. Most key excise officials got such postings with the help of local level leaders of the ruling coalition.
Some leaders of the excise staff association act as middle men in ensuring postings to officials in the three coveted districts.
The bribe was being collected in the guise of party funds. However, this practice is slowly dying out as the government is keeping close tabs.