Patna: Five more people have died in the last 24 hours after allegedly consuming illicit liquor in the 'dry' state that is Bihar. At least two others are battling for their lives in a hospital. The tragedy has again laid bare the failure that is liquor prohibition, which only exists on paper in the state as the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government fails to check and control the illicit liquor trade.
Angry over the deaths of five people at Chaksingar Dalit Tola under the flood-affected Raghopur block in Vaishali district, hundreds of villagers on Thursday protested against local police for its failure to act against the liquor mafia, which, the villagers said has been doing its business in broad daylight despite the ban. Protesters blamed the police failure in acting against the liquor mafia and also shouted slogans against it and the government, demanding stern action against wrong-doers.
“Desi liquor is easily available in the village. One can spot people openly drinking on the streets and in dry fields.There is actually no liquor prohibition; people are dying as liquor is sold everywhere. When we object to it or oppose it, the powerful liquor mafia threatens us. The local police hardly acts against them despite us informing them," said Lalita Devi, a resident of Chaksingar Dalit Tola.
She is not alone. Many others expressed their helplessness over the fact that the liquor trade is rampant all around. "One only needs money for liquor as it is available on demand.There is plenty of liquor if one has the money. The sale and consumption of liquor has increased like never before. The police is behind the flourishing trade of the illicit country-made liquor in their village and neighbouring areas,” alleged Durgesh Ram, another resident of the village. He added that if the police had enforced prohibition in the village and acted against the local liquor mafia the tragedy could have been avoided.
The latest tragedy is sadly, nothing new – this is the sixth such incident over the last nine months when people lost their lives after consuming illicit liquor.
According to district officials, three people died on Wednesday after consuming illicit liquor and two people died at the government-run Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna where they were admitted for treatment.Two people who are undergoing treatment at NMCH remain critical. All the victims were landless farm labourers.
However, the district administration is yet to confirm the deaths happened from consuming spurious liquor. It said it could only say that after a post-mortem report and an FSl team investigation into the incident. However, the families of the victims and villagers claimed they died after consuming liquor.
According to reports, ten villagers had taken part in a party which involved liquor on Tuesday night at a school building adjacent to the village. Some of them complained of stomach pain and restlessness on Wednesday. They later fell unconscious and three died one after another; the others admitted to a hospital .
In a similar case last month, sixteen people died in West Champaran district after allegedly consuming spurious liquor. In March this year eight people died in Nawada district and two in Begusarai after consuming spurious liquor.
Ironically, the slew of cases are being reported from a state where the manufacture, storage, transportation, sale and consumption of alcohol have been banned for the last five years. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had imposed total liquor prohibition in the state in April 2016.
However, the voice on Bihar's streets is that liquore prohibition has failed and that its consumption, sale and local production has increased in the last five years.