Palakkad: Suspected spurious toddy flowing out of Chittur, the major toddy extraction centre at Palakkad, has started raising alarm bells. The state and district are reeling under intense drought but the toddy extraction levels seem to be unaltered.

The excise department has accepted taxes for two lakh coconut palms in Chittur alone from which toddy can be legally extracted. According to this, the farmers must be earning a revenue of Rs. 36 crores in three months at Rs. 600 per palm per month. The quantity of toddy that is exported out of Chittur has also remained concomitant to the number of trees legally sanctioned.

But the trouble is that the coconut palms for which the tax is being paid are unfit for toddy extraction. According to the agriculture department 50 hectares of coconut palm in the area has been affected by the drought. There is also a lot more that has been virtually rendered useless because of reduced productivity.

The farmers are not getting even a fourth of the amount due according to the statistics with the excise department since the palms are unfit for extraction. But despite all this 1.75 lakh litres of toddy is being shipped out from Chittur every day.

With the recent regulation, 1180 toddy shops have been shut down. The licenses have been renewed for three months. Currently there are 683 permits for shipping toddy out of Palakkad and another 227 for intra-district shipping.

The final statistics show that the toddy shipped out of Chittur is four times that produced here, pointing to the widespread prevalence of spurious toddy. The practical difficulty in ensuring how many palms have been extracted and the administrative and political lobbying has further complicated the issue. If the Agriculture department can join hands with the excise department to cross check the extraction, the supply of spurious liquor can be controlled to an extent.