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Hooch dens take their toll,6 dead

Within a month after State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta vowed to destroy all illicit liquor dens in the state,six people died in the Maheshtala area after allegedly consuming spurious liquor.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata |
January 28, 2009 4:25:39 am

Within a month after State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta vowed to destroy all illicit liquor dens in the state,six people died in the Maheshtala area after allegedly consuming spurious liquor. Over the four-day weekend last week,many people had bought alcohol from local dens in the area.

“People started taking ill from Sunday morning and most of them were admitted to Vidyasagar Hospital. Six people have died so far,” said Ranibala Mondol,councillor of ward number 12 of Maheshtala Municipality. The six who succumbed are — Ajit Patwari,Sadhu,Bhola Das,Gautam Sardar,Ajit Sarkar and Amar Singh. The councillor said the police were not doing enough to end the menace.

“My husband bought alcohol from Banka on Sunday. Since Monday morning,he was very ill,complaining of dizziness,nausea and loss of eyesight. We took him to Vidyasagar Hospital at 8 pm on Monday and he passed away at midnight,” says Archana Sardar,wife of Gautam Sardar. Following the deaths,local youths destroyed about 10 liquor dens in the area.

The government,however,put the death toll at two. “Though it is not proved that the cause of death is spurious liquor,we will treat them as liquor deaths and our crackdown will continue,” said Dasgupta. Between ward numbers 12 and 13 of the area,there are about 20 illicit liquor dens within a radius of 2 km from the Jinjira Bazaar investigation centre. Most of the popular dens,including that of Bankim Naskar,Dilip Naskar and Prabodh Adhikary,are allegedly patronized by the Panja family of the area.

“Mangal Panja,Bimal Panja and Nirmal Panja are well-known miscreants in the area. They patronise many illicit liquor shops there,” says Amal Naskar,a local,adding that they are also involved in extortion and forceful eviction of tenants besides other petty crimes.

Another resident said the Panja family has close links with the DYFI,the student wing of the CPM,a charge denied by Sujoy Mitra,the DYFI district secretary in South 24-Parganas.

Locals also said the police officials were patronizing the dens,an allegation refuted by the police. “These are false allegations. This is a social menace. We keep destroying the dens but they come up again. It is not yet confirmed these people died of hooch. We have not received a single complaint about the deaths,” said J Banerjee,the officer in-charge of the investigation centre.

Meanwhile,as the news about the deaths spread,Leader of the Opposition Partha Chattopadhyay visited the spot and staged a protest before meeting officials of Jinjira Bazaar investigation centre. He was followed by councillors of ward numbers 12 and 13,both of whom belong to the Congress.

Additional SP (Industrial) Sunil Kumar Chaudhary said,“Police are on the job. They are routinely destroying liquor dens.”

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