Hours before she was arrested, an alleged liquor smuggler assisted and escorted Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) of Gurdaspur, Tajinderpal Singh Sandhu, and the Batala police team to the houses of several victims of the spurious liquor tragedy.
Trivani Chouhan was so confident of not getting caught that she went explaining to the police that how most of the deaths at Hathi Gate locality of Batala were due to heart attack and not linked with spurious liquor. The Hathi Gate locality has reported 11 deaths due to consuming spurious liquor.
As the toll mounted to 86 Saturday evening, more than double of 41 reported till Friday, the tragedy seems to have caught the police and the administration on the wrong foot so far as their intelligence regarding liquor smuggling and the key players in the illegal business are concerned.
The Batala City Police Friday arrested four persons including Trivani and her sister-in-law Darshana Rani alias Foujian and their sons Johny and Rajan. The accused are residents of Hathi Gate area and have been booked under Sections 304, 328 of IPC and 61/1/14 of Excise Act.
Trivani was the first person to escort police team, led by ADC Sandhu, into the narrow lanes of Hathi Gate area. She took police party to residences of at least two victims where she also tried to convince the officials that those who died had suffered heart attack.
She was also captured in a video in a serious discussion with the ADC and a police officer.
“How would I know who the person was? Batala police can explain it better. I was ready to interact with anyone who was ready to give information,” said Sandhu.
A source in the Batala police said, “Trivani is like a local community leader. She is a contractual employee at Batala Municipal Council. We came to know later that she was selling liquor in the locality”.
DSP Batala city Parvinder Kaur said that none of the victims had filed any complaint. “We had gone there on our own. Locals often assist police team. Soon we came to know that Trivani was the local kingpin of illegal liquor business,” the DSP said.
Batala police claimed that victim families are not ready to file complaint. “We visited the locality on Friday but no one come forward to lodge complaints against the accused. Most of them blamed heart attack as the reason behind their family member’s death,” the DSP added.
This is the first time that Trivani has been booked for illicit liquor trade.
First person account of a survivor
Resident of Hathi Gate, Tilak Raj, sanitation worker in his 50s
Meanwhile, one Tilak Raj, who was taken ill said that he felt that something was not right with the liquor. “I had bought liquor from the house of Trivani Chouhan and Darshana Rani. There was long queue of those who bought liquor there Thursday evening. I had bought a bottle for Rs 60. It is sold for Rs 120 at the government approved vends. The liquor tasted bad. After having it my health deteriorated and I started feeling dizzy. My family took me to doctor, where I was treated,” said Tilak Raj.
He claimed that the duo of Trivani Chouhan and Darshana Rani had been selling liquor for several years.
Contacted, Batala MLA Lakhbir Singh Lodinangal questioned the police intelligence. “What kind of policing is this” How come local police didn’t know that Trivani was involved in this business? It is not Hathi Gate alone where liquor is sold openly. There are other areas, including Gandhi camp, where such illegal activities are flourishing”.
When asked why local police had no idea about Trivani, DSP said, “If we find relation of any police official with Trivani, we will take action against that official.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines