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11 More Dead After Consuming Illicit Liquor in ‘dry’ Bihar

More than 12 hooch tragedies have been reported in the state since January.
Illicit Liquor

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Rawpixel

Patna: Despite the much-hyped use of drones, copters and motorboats by the Nitish Kumar government to curb the illegal manufacturing and smuggling of liquor in Bihar, several poor people have died after allegedly consuming illicit alcohol. In the latest incident, at least 11, people have died and 16 lost vision after consuming illicit liquor in Saran district.

According to reports, nine residents of Bhatha village, under the Maker Police Station, died in the last 24 hours and two people belonging to Ramdaspur village, under the Panapur Police Station, died after allegedly consuming illicit liquor on Monday.

More than a dozen people are still undergoing treatment in hospitals in Patna and Chhapra with some of them battling for life.

According to villagers and the victims’ families at Bhatha, they consumed locally made liquor, popularly known as Mahua, at a Sawani Puja on Wednesday night. Most of them complained of uneasiness, stomach pain and weakness and started vomiting on Thursday morning.

Initially, the nine villagers were rushed to the local health centre and subsequently referred to the government Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) after their condition deteriorated. Some of them died even before reaching the hospital. Fearing police action, some families cremated the victims without a post-mortem.

PMCH superintendent IS Thakur said that nearly six people died during treatment after being brought in serious condition from Saran.

My father consumed illicit liquor along with several villagers at a religious function. Soon after reaching home, he complained of blurred vision and stomach pain. Later, his condition deteriorated following vomiting and he died,” Rima Kumari, daughter of Kamal Mahto, one of the victims, told Newsclick over the phone.

Angry villagers have blamed the local police for the flourishing trade of illicit country-made liquor in their village and neighbouring areas. “Local liquor manufacturers and traders are doing business freely but the police hardly take action despite being aware and receiving complaints,” said villager Rajesh Mahto. “If the police had enforced prohibition in the village and acted against the liquor manufacturers and traders, the tragedy could have been averted,” he added.

While the district administration is yet to confirm these hooch incidents, the police said that they are probing the incidents and described the deaths as “mysterious” and “suspected”. They are awaiting the post-mortem reports before reaching a conclusion.

Saran district magistrate Rajesh Meena told Newsclick that prima facie, it appears that the victims died after consuming some suspected poisonous substance but “it is not clear that it was spurious liquor”. “A probe is under way in connection with the incidents,” he added.

Since January, more than 12 such incidents have been reported, exposing the state NDA government’s failure to check and control the illicit liquor trade despite the imposition of prohibition across the state in April 2016.

Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) spokesperson Ritu Jaiswal blamed Kumar for the Saran deaths. “Nitish Kumar is responsible for the hootch deaths. He failed to implement prohibition. A case should be filed against him in this connection. Prohibition is only on paper with illicit liquor available everywhere and people dying after consuming it,” she told the media.

Last year, illicit liquor claimed 95 lives in the state, prompting his ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to question how the illicit liquor manufacturers and traders are freely doing business despite the much-hyped police operation to ensure prohibition.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, also the Opposition leader in the Assembly, has targeted Kumar and termed the prohibition a failure. Left parties—Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)—have condemned the state government’s “insensitive and irresponsible attitude” regarding the recent deaths in hooch incidents.

Earlier, Left parties had dared the state government to probe the politician-administration-liquor manufacturer “nexus”. The nexus, they allege, is behind the production and sale of illicit liquor.

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