Assam Hooch Tragedy: Death Toll Rises To 145; Villagers Blame Nexus Between Enforcement Agencies & Liquor Sellers
A few weeks after spurious alcohol took lives of 120 Men in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, another similar tragedy broke in the state of Assam on the night of February 21. According to a report by The Times Of India, around 145 people have lost their lives in Jorhat and Golaghat districts, after consuming hooch (alcoholic drink, especially inferior or illicit whiskey). The death toll is predicted to rise on an hourly basis as the actual number of people who have consumed the illicit alcohol is yet to be known. However, more than 300 people are still undergoing the treatment, reported Times Now News.
What did the police say?
The Golaghat Deputy Commissioner (DC) Dhiren Hazarika mentioned that 87 people have died in the district, whereas the DC of Jorhat said that 58 people have died in the Jorhat district. Around 16 patients in the Jorhat district are critical. A total of 27 people have been arrested – 19 from Golaghat and eight from Jorhat in connection to the illicit liquor trade. According to an ANI report, the Excise Department & District Administration have conducted various search operation regarding the manufacture and sale of illicit liquor. As of now, 15,000 litres of liquor in the state has been destroyed, reported India Today. Among the patient undergoing treatment, most of them are labourers of two tea estates of Golaghat and Jorhat districts who had consumed the spurious liquor on the night of February 21.
Assam: After the death of 83 people due to consumption of spurious liquor in Golaghat & Jorhat, Excise Department & District Administration are conducting operation across the state against manufacture & sale of illicit liquor. 15,000 liters of liquor has been destroyed till now pic.twitter.com/8DDTL1vjnf
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2019
According to health department officials, by February 24, 71 people have died in Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH), where as 272 victims were under treatment. The Golaghat Civil Hospital have reported that 58 people who were admitted have died.
Villagers claimed that enforcement agencies collect ‘hafta’ or protection money from the illegal liquor sellers in return of no action, reported News18.
What’s Government Stand?
The Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal met the victims at JMCH and announced a monetary compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of the deceased. He also said that Rs 50,000 will be provided by the government to those who fell ill. He further asserted that the guilty will not be spared. The opposition Congress said that it is due to BJP led govt’s incompetence and lack of adequate steps to stop the sale of illicit liquor in the state, the tragedy happened.
The apathy & incompetence of the Assam Govt. has resulted in the tragic deaths of over 140 people with scores of victims in hospital, poisoned by toxic alcohol.
My condolences to the families of those who have died. I also pray that those in hospital make a speedy recovery.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 24, 2019
The CM further demanded an inquiry into the incident by Upper Assam Division Commissioner Julie Sonowal and asked her to submit the report within a month. The Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma after visiting the JMCH said that the death toll and the number of people admitted are changing per minute.
Who is to be blamed?
The hooch tragedy is not something new that the country has seen. It is an ongoing mishap that has embarked time and time over the years. In 2009, the Gujarat state saw the death of around 136 people in the city of Ahmedabad, after the consumption of hooch, reported The Indian Express. In this tragedy, more than 6000 people were booked for violating norms of prohibition in the state. The Sangrampur district of West Bengal in 2012 reported death of 172 people. Most of the people who lost their lives were labourers, rickshaw pullers and hawkers. 102 people died at a slum in Mumbai after consuming poisonous alcohol. The mishap was reported in 2015. Right after Mumbai, 13 people in Gopalganj district of Bihar witnessed the death of 13 people in 2016.
The Logical Indian Take
The Logical Indian request the administrations of every state to take stern actions against the people who have committed such a heinous crime. The administrations should take preliminary actions so that such mishap is foiled from happening again in the near future. The nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and illicit liquor traders needs investigation and proper action.