As the death toll in the Punjab hooch tragedy rose to 104 Sunday, the Opposition stepped up the attack on the state government with the SAD asking Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to step down and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanding CBI probe with its state chief Bhagwant Mann indicating that political leaders might be involved in it.
“There should be a probe by the CBI or a sitting judge of the high court into this incident,” SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said, describing the magisterial investigation ordered by the state government as “farce and mere eyewash”.
He also accused the state government of suppressing the actual number of casualties.
“Murder charges should be slapped against all those responsible for the man-made tragedy,” said Majithia.
Holding the CM “directly responsible” for this tragedy, the SAD asked him to own the moral responsibility for it and step down as he held the charge of the excise and home departments.
“Congress legislators, police officials and liquor mafia are responsible for the hooch tragedy. Action should be taken against all them, instead of targeting lower rank officials,” said Majithia.
While demanding that former Tarn Taran Senior Superintendent of Police Dhruv Dahiya be booked for murder, he claimed that many people in the area had approached the then SSP and complained about bootleggers and their alleged Congress “kingpins”. “Despite this, the then SSP turned a blind eye to the entire racket,” he alleged.
Earlier, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal too accused the Congress government of carrying out a “cover-up exercise” to “save” some ruling party legislators. “A cover up exercise is on to save Cong MLAs from action for 86 deaths in Pb #hooch tragedy. Action must be taken against distilleries supplying ENA to MLAs’ associates. Condemnable that CM @capt_amarinder, who also holds Excise & Home, is shielding Congmen named by victim families (sic),” Harsimrat said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, who met families of the victims at Muchhal village in Amritsar, said, “Nothing will happen with the transfer of some officers. The problem is deep rooted. An organised liquor mafia is working. It is not possible without political patronage. People are openly taking names of leaders. Congress leaders have been shying away from going into public. Now government is counting the deaths due to spurious liquor as Covid-19 deaths to keep the count low,” Mann said, adding there should be a CBI probe.
Meanwhile, former Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira too met the victims of the tragedy at Muchhal village in Amritsar.
Khaira asked the Amarinder Singh to suspend himself, instead of taking action against petty officials for such massive loss of human lives. “Amarinder Singh has become habitual of finding scapegoats to escape accountability over scandals. In the latest tragedy, the CM is not trying to find the real source of illicit spurious liquor and fix responsibility and has instead chosen to punish petty officials to divert public anguish.”
Khaira said that Amarinder Singh has failed as CM and as excise & taxation minister in reigning in the liquor mafia operating in Punjab. “Alarm bells had started ringing during the lockdown, when several fake distilleries were busted. Even Congress MLAs had demanded a CBI enquiry into powerful bureaucrats having connections with liquor mafia and ‘benami’ holdings in a distillery, but Amarinder Singh, instead of taking action, has rewarded the bureaucrat,” he alleged without naming the official.
With PTI inputs
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