At least 140 tea garden workers lost their life in the hooch tragedy in Assam’s Jorhat and Golaghat districts with many more succumbing on Sunday.
Over 300 others remained hospitalised after they consumed spurious liquor on Thursday night at the Salmora tea estate in Golaghat, 300 km from Guwahati, and at two remote villages in Titabor sub-division of Jorhat district.
The police have arrested 12 people in connection with the incident.
Deaths began when tea plantation workers consumed spurious liquor known as ‘Sulai mod’ in Assamese on Thursday night. The death toll has kept rising ever since.
Golaghat is 310 km east of Guwahati. The first four victims were from Halmira Tea Estate in Golaghat. The death toll continued climbing over the next two days. Jorhat is around 40 km away from Halmira Tea Estate.
According to reports, the victims include a mother-son duo, suspected to have supplied the local liquor at Halmira.
An Excise Department official said that a total of 90 cases have been registered regarding the unauthorised sale and production of hooch and also for violating the excise law.
“We have seized and destroyed 4,860 litres of illegal liquor since February 22,” he said.
Reacting to the incident, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the “death toll and the number of people admitted is changing minute to minute”.
He said that many patients who consumed liquor earlier are coming for treatment after hearing the news of hooch tragedy out of fear.
The Minister said that doctors have been brought from nearby districts and medical colleges.
Sarma also visited patients at Jorhat.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already ordered an inquiry into the incident. Two excise officials of the district have been suspended.
Expressing concern over the deaths, the Chief Minister directed Upper Assam Divisional Commissioner Julie Sonowal to inquire into it and submit a report to the government within a month.
Sonowal also asked state Power Minister Topon Kumar Gogoi, MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa and MLA Mrinal Saikia to rush to the spot to assess and control the situation.
The government announced ex gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those who are hospitalised.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday expressed condolences in a Facebook post saying, “I am saddened by the incident which occurred in Assam’s Golaghat area. My deepest condolences to the families of the victims. I hope that those undergoing treatment get well soon.”