(A similar case of 16 unnatural deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor, was reported in Bihar last month)
A suspected hooch tragedy is unveiling in Gujarat’s quaint village of Vareli near Surat. So far the government has refused to officially term this incident as a hooch tragedy and instead refers to it as ‘unnatural deaths’.
The in-charge District Collector, K Rajesh has said that over 21 people have died so far. Post Mortem reports do not conclusively point towards a case of illicit and hazardous alcohol consumption however the presence of methyl alcohol has been detected in the dead bodies. Methanol, commonly known as methyl alcohol is often used in the production of country-made liquor. ’Viscera Reports’ prepared through chemical analysis has now been sought from the forensic laboratory, to confirm the cause of these deaths.
In the meantime, Chief Minister Vijay Rupali held a video conference with the in charge senior police officers to discuss the issue. They have been instructed to investigate the matter and present their findings before the Anti-Terrorism Squad.
Police officers in charge over the jurisdiction of Vareli village, namely Inspector Hasmukh Bharwad, Assistant Sub-Inspector Anil Tulsiram and Head Constable Jayatibhai Vazir from the Kadodara police station have been suspended for dereliction of duty. This incident could have been easily averted had these police officials maintained vigilance through periodic raids. Rupali also instructed all officials to strictly implement the prohibition law in Gujarat.
The Superintendent of Police of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has been instructed to find the source of this methanol production and the people involved in its illegal distribution.
The Government formed a three-membered committee on Saturday to investigate the matter and submit a report within the next three days. This committee is being headed by ADGP, V.M Pargi. The report is to be released today.
The political parties have used this incident to attack each other. The Congress Party (Opposition) is calling for a Bandh in Vareli Village in protest of this incident. Congress leader and Ex-Union Minister, Tushar Chaudhary even staged a dharna in Vareli and demanded a free and fair probe.
He was quoted saying that, “there is no meaning of setting up committees. Reports of many such committees have been put in cold storage in the past. We want decisive action.”
Another political leader Alpesh Thakor, who has been spearheading a movement against illegal liquor trade in Gujarat visited the village and demanded for a High Court-monitored inquiry.
He said that they did not have faith in the investigating committee. He wants the government curb this menace by creating a stricter law. If they fail to do so, he says that his party will protest in the State Assembly at Gandhinagar on November 6th.