Odisha excise minister AU Singh Deo on Thursday tendered his resignation from the state cabinet over "medicine" drink tragedy which so far claimed 32 lives in the state.
"I resigned on moral ground," Singh Deo, who also held planning and coordination department, told reporters here after submitting his resignation to chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
Before the upcoming panchayat polls in the state, Singh Deo is the second minister in the BJD government to resign from the cabinet since the beginning of the year after Pipili MLA Pradip Maharathi, who resigned on January 19 as agriculture minister over alleged gang rape of a dalit girl in his constituency.
The victims of 'medicine' tragedy, mostly poor daily wage labourers in brick kilns in Cuttack and adjoining Khurda district, fell ill on Tuesday after consuming cough-and-cold medicinal formulations and tincture with extremely high alcoholic content as substitute for liquor late on Monday night.
Police said Baidhar Bhoi, who allegedly sold the formulations to the victims, was the first to die on Tuesday. The rest died at the SCB Medical College, Cuttack, and another private hospital on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
More than 60 persons are still struggling for their lives in the hospitals.
The tragedy triggered protests from opposition parties who demanded resignation of chief minister Patnaik and excise minister Singh Deo over the issue.
The chief minister on Wednesday ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident and granted Rs 10,000 from the Red Cross fund to the families of each of the victims.
Police have arrested 10 persons including wife and sons of Bhoi and owner and officials of two pharmaceutical companies who manufactured the medicines. They also launched a crackdown on medicine stores across the state to seize the medicines supplied by the companies.