“We are not happy that 15 men have got just two years’ imprisonment — most of them are local hooch shop owners and they are as responsible for the tragedy as the four suppliers who have been sentenced to life,” said Siddharth Chandanshive, 36, who lost his elder brother Vinayak in the 2004 Vikhroli hooch tragedy.
The Chandanshive family said it is planning to appeal to the high court for a harsher punishment for the accused. “We plan to appeal the judgment. They should at least be sent to seven years’ imprisonment,” said the Vikhroli resident who is a real estate agent.
Many families were not even aware of the sessions court’s verdict on Thursday, delivered eight years after the incident. “Most of those killed were bread-winners from lower middle-class homes. After their deaths, their families have struggled to make a decent living. Most of them hardly have the time to attend court proceedings or follow it up.”
A case in point is Aarti Nikam, in her twenties, whose husband, Mahesh, a painter, died after consuming the hooch. She now works as a housemaid to take care of her three daughters and a son.
“Aarti had to start working as a maid after Mahesh, the sole bread-winner of the family died. She works the entire day. Where will she get the time to follow up on what happened?” said Chandanshive.
There are many such families in Tagore Nagar, Vikhroli (west), one of the worst affected areas in the hooch tragedy.
Ravi Zende, 40, a Vikhroli resident who was lucky to survive, recalls the fateful day.
“I and a few of my friends drank at a local joint on December 25. We were all in a merry mood as it was our friend’s wedding the next day. But within hours of drinking, my friends started complaining of blurred vision and stomach ache. One of my friends was in such pain that he was pulling his hair out by the time he was admitted to Rajawadi hospital. The vision haunts me. I lost several of my dear friends.”
Zende echoes Sid Chandanshive’s sentiment about the verdict, “Two years’ imprisonment is too light a sentence for the accused.”