As the death toll in the Punjab spurious liquor tragedy rose to 110 with six more casualties being reported Monday, the Aam Aadmi Party questioned the investigation asking will Punjab Police be able to to bring ruling Congress leaders to the book.
Three fatalities were reported from Tarn Taran, two from Gurdaspur’s Batala and one from Amritsar. Tarn Taran is the worst affected with maximum 83 deaths, followed by Batala (14) and Amritsar (13) in the tragedy unfolding since Wednesday evening in the three districts.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema questioned the efficacy of the probe by state police while accusing the ruling Congress of “hushing up” numerous scams.
“The Chief Minister has done nothing but form Special Investigation Teams (SITs) to hush up scams, allegedly involving the who’s who of his Cabinet and (Congress) MLAs, while upright officers, who exhibited seriousness in taking the investigations to conclusive end, were being targeted or transferred,” the AAP leader said in a statement.
Cheema said CM Amarinder Singh should make it clear to the people of Punjab as to which of the investigative teams had taken the probe to a conclusive end and ensured punishment to the culprits.
He said the scourge of spurious liquor in Majha region and elsewhere in the state has proved that the liquor mafia was running its trade under the protective patronage of the government, allegedly through police administration.
Cheema also questioned the recent transfer of a Patiala police officer, who, he claimed, wanted to nab and bring the Congress legislators allegedly involved in the Rajpura-Ghanour illegal fake liquor factory case to justice.
Cheema demanded that the hooch tragedy be investigated by a sitting High Court judge or the CBI.
On Tuesday, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, and 12 MLAs including Cheema will protest outside CM’s farmhouse in Mullanpur demanding swift action in the liquor case. The AAP workers will hold protests outside the residence of Congress MLAs in the affected areas.
The BJP too slammed the Congress government in the state, holding it responsible for the tragedy.
Party national secretary Tarun Chugh too sought a probe by a sitting judge of the high court into the case while rejecting the magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government. He also met families of the victims in Batala.
Lambasting the state government, the BJP leader said the tragedy has “exposed” the anti-drug drive of the state government. “The government waited for the tragedy to happen rather than taking timely acting against culprits,” he told mediapersons in Batala.
Activists of the SAD’s Youth Akali Dal staged a dharna in Tarn Taran against the government.
Led by YAD chief Parambans Singh Romana, they alleged that some Congress MLAs were “patronising the illicit liquor trade”.
Romana sought the registration of an FIR against them and said the Shiromani Akali Dal will continue its protest till action was taken against the culprits. “We request the government to take heed or we will be forced to launch an agitation against the legislators as well as the chief minister,” he said.
The protesters demanded a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for each of the families of the deceased.
Meanwhile, Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi ridiculed the SAD for blaming the state government for the hooch tragedy.
“It was nothing but pot calling the kettle black as similar incidents had occurred in 2012 and 2016 in Gurdaspur and Batala, respectively, during their regime,” said Sodhi in an official statement.
Sodhi said in the Batala case, neither a FIR was registered nor any action taken against the main accused.
Sensing the gravity of matter, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh immediately ordered a magisterial inquiry by a divisional commissioner, who has been asked to submit his report within a month, the minister said.
The chief minister had earlier suspended seven excise officials and six policemen.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said this is not the time to “derive mileage and score political brownie points”. The occasion demands that all political parties come together on a single platform and present a united front, he said.
With PTI inputs
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