In a hooch tragedy, 15 people died, one of them a woman, after allegedly consuming illicit liquor in two places in Malappuram district on Monday, into which the state government ordered a judicial inquiry.
While nine persons died in Kuttippuram after consuming spurious liquor from a toddy shop, six persons including a middle-aged couple died after taking liquor last night from another shop at Vandoor, about 50 km away from Kuttippuram, police and Excise sources said.
Preliminary assessment of forensic experts was that the toddy supplied by the shop in Kuttippuram could be laced with methanol. In the case of Wandoor, it was yet to be ascertained whether it was spurious toddy or illicit brew that caused the casualties.
Several persons, who had taken the drink from the two places, had sought treatment in hospitals in the district with vomiting, nausea and exhaustion.
All those died came from working class background and five of them were believed to be migrant workers from Tamil Nadu, sources said.
Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan announced a judicial probe into the incident, whose details would be worked out in the next cabinet meeting. He also announced a solatium of Rs one lakh each to the kins of those died.
The Chief Minister instructed the Home Department to take effective steps to bring to book the culprits who caused the tragedy and take stringent action against them.
Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who visited the affected areas, said if it was proved that the tragedy was caused by illicit liquor, murder charges would be brought against the culprits.
Expressing shock over the incident, Excise Minister PK Gurudasan said the exact cause of the tragedy would be known only after getting the post mortem report.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, blamed the liquor policy of the LDF Government responsible for the tragedy. "The liquor mafia is having a free for all in the state. This is the real cause for the tragedy', Opposition leader Oommen Chandy said.