With the spill of molasses from a sugar mill into the Beas river killing thousands of fish, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Monday accused the state government of “patronising an environmental massacre in Punjab by turning a blind eye to the massive and man-made ecological disaster.”

In a letter to the Union minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Harsh Vardhan, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal described the massive pollution of river Beas water and the shocking scale of death of aquatic life in water bodies in Punjab as “a shocking example of the brazen insensitivity of the offending parties with active patronage of the state government”.

He said that the private mill, which was also a distillery,  is owned by highly connected political leader who is also ‘religious advisor’ to the Punjab Chief Minister (CM), Amarinder Singh.

“The grave irony of the tragedy authored by a religious advisor of the CM is that it has  led to the contamination of the sacred Kali Bein which is historically associated with the life of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji,”the SAD president said.

Demanding the immediate arrest of “the members of the management and the directors of the offending mill who are guilty of an inter-state crime now,” Badal said that they should be proceeded against under relevant provisions of law for endangering lives of millions of people in Punjab and Rajasthan apart from causing a massacre of aquatic life including fish and birds.

He said that the Union government should directly address the crisis as it has already become a multi-state calamity. The former deputy CM also demanded that a Central team  for an on the spot study of the situation and determine the  scale of compensation to be paid to the affected people which should be borne by the guilty industrialist.

A large number of fish were found dead in Beas on 17 May after molasses from a sugar factory leaked into the river Punjab’s Beas town, about 40 km from Amritsar. As many as eight to ten varieties of fish, including cat fish, common carp have died because of low level of oxygen in the river. The colour of water changed to rust brown because of the pollutants.