Lucknow: The lethal hooch concoction, which has so far claimed over 60 lives in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Uttarakhand, is sold for a mere Rs 25 a pouch.
The spurious alcoholic brew containing sulphuric acid, carbamide and sodium hydroxide was consumed by at least 100 people in two districts of UP and Hardiwar in the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand.
“A pouch of illicit liquor, which is called a paua and sold in 250 ml plastic packets, costs just Rs 25-30. The consumption of this liquid is a major menace in villages across Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior government official, on the condition of anonymity. “If one goes to any village after dark, they will find that more than 50 per cent of a village’s population is consuming it. It is hidden behind manure in trucks, produced illicitly in distant parts of fields and distributed mostly among the poor.”
As figures for the death toll due to hooch consumption continue to increase, the UP government machinery seems to have sprung into action – registering 297 cases and arresting 175 people during raids to crackdown on the distribution and production of hooch.
The UP government has suspended 10 excise department officials in Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts where these deaths had been recorded since Thursday. Moreover, 10 policemen in Saharanpur district were also suspended.
The death toll is also expected to rise. “Around 35 people had been referred to the Meerut Medical College and Hospital for treatment till yesterday,” said Ranvijay Singh, SP City, Meerut. “Out of them, 18 have died and the rest are undergoing treatment. At least four patients continue to be critical.”
In UP, the affected areas are in Kushinagar and Saharanpur districts.
The tragedy began at two villages in Kushinagar district on the eastern Uttar Pradesh border. “On 6 February, information was received that some deaths had taken place in two villages – Vedupar Birwat Konhvaliya and Javahi Dayal – due to the consumption of liquor,” said an official statement from the UP government Saturday evening. “Investigation by the police and excise department officials in the case revealed that some people had procured kacchi sharab (hooch) from Bihar and the incident took place due to the consumption of this liquor.”
The government further stated that by Thursday, eight people had died in this case in Kushinagar.
Two days later, a similar tragedy stuck the western UP district of Saharanpur. “On 8 February, eight men died allegedly after consuming spurious liquor in Umahi and Naagal area of Saharanpur,” the government said. According to the UP government’s statement, at least 36 deaths were reported from the district.
“On the basis of the available report, a terahvi sanskar (Hindu ritual observed on the 13th day following a death) had been organised in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, which had been attended by residents of Saharanpur district,” the statement reads. “These people had also consumed alcohol in the feast organised there following which they fell sick late at night. Due to bad weather and since it was late at night, they could not get initial treatment and this unfortunate incident took place.”
The incidents comes less than a year after a similar tragedy had stuck Kanpur where at least 10 men died allegedly due to consumption of illicit liquor.
The latest incident has, however, assumed political overtones with the opposition taking on the ruling BJP.
Even as Chief Minister Adityanath announced that the cause of the incident is being probed, former CM and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav attacked the BJP government and alleged that it was shielding the liquor mafia.
The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, a BJP ally, has called for Prohibition in the state. Party president, Om Prakash Rajbhar, a UP minister, said, “Spurious liquor has been taking lives of the poor every year. They should be strictly prohibited.
“Be it the former government or our government, if a complete prohibition on this is not put in place, such incidents will continue to happen. The liquor mafia has devised various ways of distributing such liquor.”
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