The toll in the spurious liquor tragedy climbed to 24 by Sunday night while the main accused was arrested and 11 officials from the excise and police departments were suspended.
District magistrate Ajay Yadav confirmed that 21 deaths had occurred in Etah earlier in the day while in Farukhabad, sub divisional magistrate of Kayamganj, Ajit Kumar, said three had died in the district.
Meanwhile, the main accused, Sri Pal, was arrested from Nayagaon area in Etah by Saturday night, superintendent of police, Ajay Shankar Rai said.
“The main accused, Sri Pal has been arrested and was presented before the court and sent to jail. We are working on information obtained from him during interrogation,” said Rai.
“Sri Pal was arrested four times in 2015 but was bailed out each time. A massive campaign was launched in June this year and about 3 lakh litres of illegal liquor was recovered and destroyed in Aliganj town,” Govind Agarwal, deputy inspector general, Aligarh told Hindustan Times.
The tragedy occurred late on Friday, when several people from Luhari Darwaja and adjacent Laukhera village consumed the spurious liquor and were taken ill. Six of the victims lost their eyesight, locals claimed. By Saturday night, 14 people had died.
Yadav said an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh will be given to the families of each deceased apart from assuring action against the liquor mafias.
In Lucknow, chief secretary Deepak Singhal apprised chief minister Akhilesh Yadav of the incident.
Singhal directed the principal secretaries of excise and home to take action against those officials found guilty of dereliction of duty.
Five government employees, including three from the excise department, were suspended following the incident.
“Taking serious note of the incident, district excise officer, excise inspector and an excise personnel have been suspended,” Kishan Singh Atoria, the principal secretary (excise) said.
The principal secretary (home), Debashish Panda, said circle officer of Aliganj, Asaram Ahirwar and station house officer Mukesh Kumar were suspended.
In Etah, the superintendent of police suspended sub-inspector Yogendra Kumar with constables Bhagat Singh, Om Prakash, Tukiram, Bhagwan Singh and Mahesh Chandra.
As the death toll spiked, police further looked into Sri Pal to determine how far the net was cast.
Sri Pal had gone silent after repeated arrests in 2015 but turned active again in June and began selling pouches of toxic liquor for Rs 15-20. He is believed to have added chemicals to increase the intensity of the liquor.
The inspector general of police, Agra Zone, DC Mishra, and Mukesh Rajput, the MP from Farukkhabad, were in town to take stock of the situation.
(With inputs from PTI)