Updated: February 24, 2019 5:15:35 pm
Several people are undergoing treatment in hospitals in Assam following consumption of spurious liquor in Halmira Tea Estate in Golaghat district of Upper Assam. (Photo: PTI)
By Saturday evening 114 deaths had been reported from villages across two districts in Assam and several more are undergoing treatment in hospitals. The casualties that are known to have been caused by the consumption of spurious liquor were first reported from Halmira Tea Estate in Golaghat district of Upper Assam. In the next couple of days, more such deaths were reported from neighbouring areas, including those from Jorhat district. While police authorities are investigating into who the producer of the poisonous liquor is, they suspect the addition of methanol into the brew to be the cause behind the death of so many.
India has been witness to many such hooch tragedies that have claimed the lives of hundreds. In fact before Assam, the last such incident had taken place just about two weeks ago in Uttarakhand which had led to the death of about 99 people.
In the aftermath of the 1991 hooch tragedy in South Mumbai that had claimed the lives of 93, a committee was formed to inquire into the deaths and provide recommendations in order to avoid similar instances in future. The committee had recommended several measures to prevent illegal possession of methanol which is believed to be the prime adulterant in such instances. Small traces of methanol are found in licensed alcohol as well, but problems arise when higher concentrations are formed due to incorrect distillation processes. In the ensuing decades, the country has been hit by many incidents of large scale deaths being caused by the consumption of adulterated liquor.
Nearly 136 people had been reported dead in Ahmedabad after the consumption of hooch in July 2009. The scale of the tragedy was such that doctors had to be rushed into Ahmedabad from across the state to treat the rising number of victims. Public anger in the aftermath of the incident had resulted in a political crisis as well. The state assembly witnessed demands for the resignation of chief minister Narendra Modi. Following the incident, the police conducted close to 8000 raids across the city and booked more than 6000 people for violating norms of prohibition in the state. A bill was also introduced in the state assembly calling for the death penalty for those who have been accused in spurious liquor cases.
West Bengal 2011
In 2011, a hooch tragedy in Sangrampur in West Bengal had claimed the lives of 172 people. Victims of the tragedy included labourers, rickshaw pullers and hawkers. A preliminary investigation into the incident suggested that the deaths had been caused due to the addition of methanol that led to respiratory and cardiac failure. The incident had triggered a massive public outrage and people had destroyed several hooch manufacturing units. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a CID inquiry into the incident and had also declared a compensation of Rupees 2 lakhs to each of the families of the deceased. In September 2018, the Calcutta High Court sentenced to life four persons accused in the case.
One hundred and two people had died at a slum in Malvani, Mumbai after the consumption of poisonous alcohol in June 2015. Forensic analysis of the liquor had revealed that it was pure methanol diluted with water. Mumbai police had arrested eight people in connection with the tragedy and several officers had been suspended for negligence. After the incident, the Maharashtra government announced a compensation of 1 lakh to each family of the deceased.
Consumption of poisonous alcohol had led to the death of 13 people in Gopalganj district of Bihar in August 2016. Presence of large quantities of Methanol in the liquor was once again found to be the cause behind the deaths. In the aftermath of the incident, the administration in Bihar conducted massive raids and confiscated at least 300 litres of country liquor. Twenty-five policemen were suspended, six people arrested and an FIR was lodged against 14 people in connection with the case. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was heavily criticised in the wake of the incident since he had enforced total prohibition in the state earlier that year.
Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand 2019
Earlier this month a Hooch tragedy had claimed the lives of 99 people hailing from Haridwar district in Uttarakhand and Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh. They had consumed the liquor at a tehravin function, held to mark the 13th day of mourning after the death of a relative. A father-son duo, Fakira and Sonu had been arrested in connection with the case. They had told the police that they procured the adulterated liquor from Uttar Pradesh and sold it in Balupur and its neighbouring villages in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district. Ten policemen and four excise officials were also suspended following the incident. A political outrage had soon followed with chief minister Yogi Adityanath suggesting the involvement of Samajwadi Party in the incident. Samajwadi Party president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, slammed the BJP government in the state over the deaths.
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