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Hooch tragedy in Nadia: Eight die, 11 excise officials suspended

Police await post-mortem report to confirm the cause of death; finance minister announces Rs 2 lakh ex gratia for families.

Statesman News Service | Krishnagar/Kolkata |

At least eight persons, including a 60-year old woman, died and 18 others fell ill after allegedly consuming spurious liquor, locally called ‘cholai’, at Nrishinghapur-Chowdhuripara within Santipur police station limits in Nadia on Wednesday.

All the sick persons have been admitted to Santipur State General Hospital after they complained of dehydration following bouts of vomiting and loose motion. Among them, a few are in critical condition, said the attending doctors.

According to police officials, the deceased have been identified as Dulal Mahato (40), Bhaloa Mahato. Buto Mahato, Sunil Mahato, Kasinath Mahato, Goutam Sharma, Munna Rai and Baisnab Mahato. While the family members of the deceased claim that they died after consuming spurious liquor, police are yet to confirm the cause of death.“We are waiting for the post-mortem report and only then the cause of the death will be ascertained,” said Rupesh Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Nadia.

The state government has ordered a CID inquiry into the death of eight persons due to consumption of spurious liquor at Shantipur in Nadia, said state finance minister Amit Mitra. The government has suspended 11 excise officials ~ the present Shantipur officer-in-charge (excise), his immediate predecessor, the deputy excise collector of Ranaghat range and eight excise constables ~ he said in the Assembly premises. The minister announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the deceased’s families.

Mr Mitra said that it has been reported that spurious liquor is being smuggled into rural Bengal from Bihar and Jharkhand and the CID inquiry would throw some light on this. The accused would be identified through the inquiry Again, whether the victims consumed country liquor would be confirmed only after chemical examination, he said.

The deaths indicate dereliction of duty and so the state government has decided to suspend all officials in this regard, he said.

He said: “The government wants to send a strong message that no one who is responsible for the incident will be spared.”

The district police and the CID officials have already launched massive raids across the area and recovered several liters of spurious liquor. The CID officials have already arrested two persons in connection with this case, but the main kingpin of the liquor network is still at large.

Local residents claim that several small hubs selling country-made liquor have recently surfaced in the area. People assemble in these hubs and drinking has become a major cause of concern in the local neighbourhoods.

According to reports, a group assembled at one such hub in Chowdhuripara and consumed liquor. After returning to their homes, they started feeling uneasy. Most of them were rushed to the Santipur State General Hospital and Kalna Hospital in Burdwan. On arrival at the hospital, four were declared dead, while three others died later.

Tension gripped the locality soon after the news spread. Local residents rushed to the house of an alleged liquor racketeer, Chandan Mahato and started a demonstration. “Chandan used to bring liquor from Satgachia and sell it from his house ever day. We raised our voice against his illegal practice, but he often used to threaten us,” said Bapi Mahato, a local resident.

The local people said a majority of the dead and the sick were brick-field labourers and alleged that the spurious liquor was brought from Kalna.

According to sources in the district administration, the locals at Nrishinghapur- Chowdhuripara village had consumed hooch suspected to be laced with methanol last night; the signs of illness started showing up in the wee hours on Wednesday.