Thirteen persons have died after reportedly consuming spurious liquor in Gopalganj town of Bihar — the first such deaths after prohibition was imposed across the state in April this year.
According to reports, the victims consumed spurious liquor on Monday night. While the first death was reported on Tuesday morning, the toll rose to 13 over the last 24 hours.
Dr M P Singh, Gopalganj Sadar Hospital civil surgeon, said the victims arrived at the hospital on Tuesday morning, with complaints of nausea and acute stomach ache. While three persons were referred to Patna and six to Gorakhpur, most of them died either on their way to hospital or on reaching there.
Gopalganj District Magistrate Rahul Kumar confirmed the deaths, but said the cause would only be known after post-mortem examination. “We sent alerts as soon as more patients with similar complaints arrived at the government and private hospitals. We conducted raids. We are now waiting for the post-mortem reports to know the exact cause of death, although family members have blamed it on liquor consumption,” he said.
“It is true that all patients came with similar complaints. It is difficult to link these symptoms with spurious liquor consumption only. The post-mortem reports hold the key,” said Dr Singh.
Ten of the victims have been identified as Parma Mahto (54), Mantu Giri (34), Shashikant Mahto (29), Dinesh Mahto (40), Umesh (34), Ramji Sharma (40), Manoj Shah (25), Ramu Ram (24), Anil Ram (31) and Jhamindra Mahto (29).
The names of the three remaining victims are not known. All the victims were vendors or daily wagers.
The Gopalganj Sadar Hospital has conducted six autopsies so far.
The deaths were reported from four different places in Gopalganj. In Nonia Tola, relatives of victims said 11 people had gone to an illicit liquor outlet in Khajurwadi, a Mahadalit settlement along Harkhua Mod under town police station, late on Monday night. Khajurwadi area is known for the manufacture of illicit liquor, and has been raided several times in the past.
“My brother was a habitual drinker. People were in a festive mood on Independence Day, and went to drink at a place that serves illicit liquor. On Tuesday morning, they started complaining of stomach ache and nausea,” said Mahesh Mahto, brother of one of the victims, Shashikant Mahto.
Meanwhile, the police conducted raids on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which they arrested five persons and seized 50 bottles of liquor.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered Saran Divisional Commissioner Narmadeshwar Lal to probe the deaths and submit a report. The district administration has set up three teams to probe the deaths. Targeting the state government, BJP legislature party leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi asked if Nitish “would take responsibility for the deaths”.
“Overall, 30 people, including the 13 in Gopalganj, have died due to consumption of spurious liquor. But the administration fudges the report, blaming the deaths on contaminated food. Only Mahadalits and the poor are suffering due to Nitish’s Taliban-like ban on liquor,” said Modi.
“Such incidents are taking place because the opposition has not been supporting the liquor law,” countered JD(U) state president Bashistha Narayan.