Holding Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik solely responsible for the recent hooch tragedy, Congress on Sunday demanded his resignation and a CBI probe into the tragedy that claimed at least 34 lives.
"A thorough analysis shows the chief minister alone was responsible for the hooch tragedy and nobody else is to be blamed. Therefore, Naveen Patnaik must step down owning responsibility," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik told reporters.
Instead of making others scapegoat, the chief minister should quit to set a healthy democratic tradition as no other minister or official was responsible for the liquor disaster, he said.
Accusing Naveen of protecting his chair by removing ministers and suspending officials to mislead people, Patnaik claimed that the chief minister had turned down a series of recommendations by excise ministers and a high-level committee to import country liquor to meed demand.
As Aska sugar factory was able to meet only 25 to 30 per cent of country liquor requirement in the state, it was necessary to procure the rest about 70 per cent from other sources to prevent spread of spurious liquor, he said.
However, the chief minister turned down proposals by the then excise ministers and committees for procurement of country spirit from other agencies in August and November, 2008, July 2009 and in June 2011, Patnaik said.
The PCC chief sought to know whether the chief minister rejected all the proposals due to pressure from any lobby and said only a CBI probe can find the truth.
Since there was an acute shortage of country spirit in the market, unscrupulous elements circulated spurious items for consumption by habitual drinkers, he said.
Meanwhile, three medicine shop owners were arrested from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack in connection with the hooch episode of February 6 which has so far claimed the lives of 34 persons, official sources said.
While A U Singhdeo has resigned as excise minister over the incident, three officers have been suspended for dereliction of duty.