Bihar hooch tragedy: 11 dead, 5 arrested, SHO suspended
Bihar Hooch Tragedy: Eleven people have died while 12 have fallen seriously ill, many of them losing their eyesight, after consuming spurious liquor in Saran district of Bihar, a dry state, officials said on Friday.
Addressing a joint press conference in Chhapra town, District Magistrate Rajesh Meena and Superintendent of Police Santosh Kumar said five people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the manufacture and sale of hooch while the SHO of the police station concerned and the local chowkidar have been suspended.
"Information was received on Thursday about two people dying and many taking ill after consuming some drink. The incident was reported from villages falling under Phulwariya panchayat in Maker Police Station area.
"A team of police, excise and medical officials were sent to the spot and those fallen ill were admitted to the Sadar Hospital here. Those whose condition worsened were rushed to PMCH hospital in Patna," they told reporters. The officials said that 11 people have died so far in the incident.
"Nine died while undergoing treatment at PMCH, one at a private hospital and another person was cremated before the administration came to know about the incident. Twelve people are still undergoing treatment here and in PMCH," the officials said.
They said five people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
"It has come to light that the villages have a tradition of liquor consumption on a festival during the Hindu calendar month of Shravan. The festival was held on August 3 when locals consumed spurious liquor," the officials said.
The SHO and the chowkidar have been suspended and departmental proceedings have been initiated against them since they failed to take note of the local custom and take preventive action, they said.
"We have urged the villagers not to conceal information of people falling sick or dying after consuming liquor and also asked elected representatives to help the administration with such information," they said.
Sale and consumption of alcohol were completely banned in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar government in April 2016 in line with an electoral promise he had made to the state's women ahead of assembly polls held the year before.
Nonetheless, since November last year, the state has reported a number of hooch tragedies in which more than 50 people have died. Saran alone reported a couple of suspected hooch deaths earlier this week and in January this year.
The chief minister's close aide and cabinet colleague Ashok Choudhary was asked about question marks being raised, in the light of such events, over the efficacy of the prohibition law.
"Dowry, rapes, use of unlicensed arms have not stopped but this does not lead to demands for scrapping of laws against these. There are elements who do not want the prohibition drive in Bihar to succeed," Choudhary said.
The anti-liquor law has been criticised for poor implementation by the Opposition while maverick leaders such as former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose party is a constituent of the ruling alliance, have been advocating the withdrawal of prohibition.
After the death of more than 30 people across four districts around Diwali last year, the government had sought to spruce up the police machinery by providing helicopters, drones and motor boats to personnel involved in keeping a watch on bootleggers.
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