Additional troops in plain clothing will blend into hundreds of thousands pilgrims expected to throng the historic Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya annual Esala Festival and Pageant when the Department of Excise has vowed to keep the area a ‘no booze zone’ for 16 days from today.

The department has instructed its officials representing the Uva Province divisions, stations and units to be extra vigilant during the period starting from Monday, June 19th to Tuesday, July 4th and strictly enforce the law.

Therefore, the sale of liquor at all hotels, restaurants, bars, taverns and wine stores within the Kataragama Divisional Secretariat area will be prohibited during the mentioned period.

Excise Spokesman Commissioner Kapila Kumarasinghe told that groups of sleuths in civvies will be deployed amongst arriving crowds of pilgrims in and around Kataragama Town to find any unlawful activities.

The department will also keep its hotline 1913 active round the clock to receive any complaints, information or tip-offs of offences related to alcohol, narcotic drugs and tobacco.

The Excise Department also requested the visiting pilgrims to refrain from bringing along any alcoholic beverages into the Sacred City and the Esala Festival zone.