Bihar hooch tragedy toll at 70, authorities say tally could rise

Saran, Dec 17 (ANI): Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sushil Kumar Modi meets the family members of the victims of the Chapra Hooch tragedy, in Saran on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

The toll in hooch tragedy in Bihar’s Saran district jumped to 70 after 10 more deaths were reported on Saturday, according to hospital records accessed by HT, with authorities suspecting the numbers might go up as another 30 people are still hospitalised.

The deaths of 70 people in Mashrakh, Marhaura, Ishuapur, Amnaur, Tariyya, Baniyapur and Parsa blocks of Saran district allegedly due to consumption of spurious liquor on Tuesday were the highest in such an incident since prohibition was brought into effect in Bihar in 2016. Most deaths were reported over Wednesday and Thursday, evoking a political war of words between the ruling Mahagathbandhan and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP lawmaker from Saran, has alleged that the actual toll could be well over 100, “as many bodies were cremated without post-mortem examination and under pressure of the administration to hide the figure”.

Saran district magistrate Rajesh Meena said the administration was trying to verify if bodies were cremated without informing police.

A day after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said that no compensation will be provided to the families of those died in Saran after consuming spurious liquor, his deputy and RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav on Saturday alleged that most of the liquor in Bihar come from BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

“The chief minister has already given his statement. Probe is underway. Most of the liquor supply is from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where the BJP is in power and they are not conducting any probe,” Yadav was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. “(We have) got to know that from (the) home of LoP VK Sinha’s kin, 108 cartons of liquor bottles were recovered.”

According to the hospital records, seen by HT, the 10 deceased on Saturday were identified as Shivdayal Raut (60) and his wife Gauri Devi (55), both residents of Ketalpur village, Mukesh Kumar Pandit and Mukesh Singh of Gopalbari, Prabhu Narayan Singh alias Madhu Singh of Chandbarwa village, Mithilesh Rai (son of Ishuapur police station’s chowkidar Rajnath Rai) of Siswa village, Pintoo Rai and Damodar Rai of Pojhi-Derni village, Chandrika Shah of Harpur and Chhotu alias Chhote Shah of Kharuni village.

On Friday late night, the Kishanganj GRP (Government Railway Police) recovered the body of Chhote Shah from Capital Express. Police said the deceased had consumed spurious liquor in Saran on December 14, after which he went to Patna and boarded the train from Rajendra Nagar Terminal.

Late on Saturday evening, Ishuapur police station SHO Sanjay Ram, chowkidar Hari Rai, dafadar Krishna Singh and chowkidar of Masrakh police station Ramnath Manjhi were suspended on the charges of dereliction of duty. “Their role was found suspicious in liquor trade and more policemen will be face action after we get detailed report,” said Saran superintendent of police Santosh Kumar. Masrakh SHO Ritesh Mishra and constable Vikesh Tiwari were suspended on Thursday.

The victim’s uncle Munna Shah told HT that his nephew along with three others had consumed liquor and the other two also died separately. The station house officer (SHO) of Kishanganj GRP, Nitesh Kumar, confirmed that he received information from the railway control that a person travelling in the general compartment of the Kamakhya-bound train had been found unconscious and was rushed to Sadar hospital, where he was declared brought dead.

Police said the investigation so far has pointed to consumption of liquor made of spirit at three different places. “The first incident was reported from Yadu More, Masrakh where around 50 people consumed it at a marriage function. The second incident took place at a liquor hideout, while the third incident was reported where liquor in pouches were made available through home delivery,” a senior police officer said, requesting anonymity.

SP Santosh Kumar told HT that two separate FIRs with Masrakh and Ishuapur police stations have been registered against 13 named people. “Raids are on to nab the accused,” said the SP, adding that the Saran police have registered 3,495 FIRs under the excise act and arrested 9,230 people since January 2022 till December 15. He said police have also recovered 191,000 litres of liquor and seized 636 vehicles.

Dr Gopal Krishna of Masrakh community health centre told reporters that between Tuesday and Friday, at least 60 patients arrived at the centre of which four died in the hospital premises while 56 were referred to Chhapra sadar hospital.

Saran excise superintendent Rajnish Kumar said that vehicles heading to Bihar and West Bengal from Uttar Pradesh use Masrakh state highway to avoid toll plaza, leading to transportation of spirit.

Source: The Hindustan Times