A land where wine flows like water may sound like an epicurean’s paradise. However, in Kerala, this 'utopia' turned into a shocking reality for 18 families living in a residential building in Chalakkudy, when a foul-smelling mixture of water and liquor started pouring out of their taps on Monday morning.
On Sunday evening, residents of the Solomon’s Avenue apartment near the KSRTC bus stand in Thrissur’s Chalakkudy noticed that their building was smelling of alcohol. The very next day, they received a rude shock as their drinking water started smelling and tasting like liquor.
The mystery was swiftly solved and culprits were identified as a bunch of excise officials from Irinjalakuda, who callously disposed off 6000 litres of beer and other spirits into a pit next to the apartment.
“Next to our apartment is the Rachana Bar. Six years ago, this bar was shut down and their liquor stock sealed by the excise department. Now, the department completed the formalities related to disposal of the liquor and officials poured all the sealed liquor into a pit they had dug up within the compound,” Joshy Malliyekkal, the building owner of Solomon’s Avenue apartment tells TNM.
Unfortunately, the pit was dug close to the apartment’s open well, only separated by a compound wall. On pouring the liquor, it mixed with the soil and flowed into the apartment’s open well, spoiling over 20,000 litres of drinking water used regularly by the 18 families.
Sealed bottles of beers from the bar
“We use water from the well for cooking, drinking, bathing and everything else. At 4 am on Monday, our neighbours who have school going children rang us up and said that water from the taps smelled bad. The mother was getting ready to cook for the children when she noticed the smelly water. Soon, all 18 families had the same complaint,” says Joshy.
Following the incident, the residents had to suspend all activities as they had no access to drinking water from the open well.
Adulterated well water caught in a bucket
“We have office going adults, senior citizens, new born babies and school children. The whole apartment was paralysed because of this careless act by the excise department,” he added.
On Sunday evening, the residents complained to the Chalakudy police and Municipality and health officials tested the well water to confirm the presence of liquor.
Following this, 5000 litres of drinking water was supplied in tankers to the apartment. This was continued on Tuesday with water being supplied by the municipality in the morning and evening.
“Now they have set up a separate tank and 2 lines of water connection have been given to our apartment. But the whole experience was very traumatic for us. My kids did not go to school for two days. We were managing with mineral water cans the whole of Sunday,” he said.
Meanwhile, the excise department has been draining out water from the open well and cleaning it. The owner of the bar has also agreed to bear the expenses of the water supplied to the apartment’s residents, until their well has been restored.
According to Deputy Excise Commissioner TK Sanu, the Excise officials led by Irinjalakkuda Circle Inspector were unaware of the presence of the open well nearby.
“If we have to dump a huge quantity of liquor, we usually resort to options like distilleries. But here, it was just 2,000 bottles, so they decided to dispose it off by digging a pit. As per the official orders, while disposing it, the officer should take care not to cause any harm to the environment and the public,” Sanu was quoted in a report by TNIE.
However, protesting residents do not intend to let this callous act by the excise team go unpunished.
“We are going to file complaints with the district collector, health department, municipality, Thrissur Police Commissioner, MLA and MP until some action is taken against the excise sleuths,” Joshy added.