At least 86 people have died in Punjab after drinking spurious liquor, the police informed on Saturday. After the Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh ordered a probe the state police launched a massive crackdown and have arrested at least 25 people from different parts of the state, news agency Outlook reported.
The tragedy was first reported on Wednesday evening from three districts of the state including Tarn Taran, Batala and Amritsar. More than 100 raids were conducted in the three districts, including places in the Rajpura and Shambhu border.
Tarn-Taran reported the maximum number of deaths, with over 63, followed by Amritsar Rural at 12 and Gurdaspur (Batala) at 11. Singh has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to each of the family of the deceased.
So far, seven excise officials along with six policemen have been suspended including two Deputy Superintendents of police and 4 Station House Officers of police in connection with the racket.
The police seized almost 750 litres of 'Lahan' (raw material for making liquor) from various villages and dhabas around the two border areas and Patiala in raids, Police chief DGP Dinkar Gupta informed the media.
Among the arrested are Govinderbir Singh, alias Gobinda of Jandiala City, the mastermind of bringing poisonous liquor to these areas, a woman kingpin Darshan Rani, transport owner Prem Singh; Bhinda, another wanted criminal by Tarn Taran police, and owners/managers of various dhabas from where the illicit liquor was being supplied. The other two accused Satnam and Rashem have also been booked, however, their accomplice, identified as Lakhwinder, is absconding.
According to the reports of chemical analysis of the products, it was found that the material used in making the liquor was a denatured spirit, generally used in the paint/hardware industry.
Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal stated the tragedy where almost 86 people died after drinking the toxic liquor, is the result of the Congress government's backing up its ministers and MLAs for allegedly carrying out the liquor trade. Adding, he demanded Amarinder Singh's resignation.
In response, Singh asked the opposition to stop 'politicizing' the tragedy, citing the instances of similar incidents of 2012 and 2016, in which no arrests were made.
The police officials suspended on charges of negligence in duty include DSP Jandiala (Amritsar Rural) and DSP sub-division Tarn Taran, and the SHOs of PS Tarsikka (Amritsar Rural), City Batala (Batala police district), PS Sadar Tarn Taran and PS City Tarn Taran.