Despite prohibition, continuing hooch deaths big challenge for Bihar govt
Even after nearly five years of prohibition in Bihar, easy liquor availability is not the only issue confronting the state government as deaths caused by spurious liquor point to gaping holes in the implementation of the stringent law.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdowns this and previous year, the supply of illicit liquor has claimed several lives in the state. From January till August 26 this year, as many as 64 people died and many others lost their sight after consuming alleged spurious liquor in Nawada, West Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Rohtas districts, police records show.
As per police headquarters records, only 70 people died in Bihar after consuming spurious liquor between 2012 and 2015, with maximum 48 deaths reported in 2012 and minimum six in 2015, a year before the prohibition was enforced in Bihar. Post prohibition, between 2016 and 2019, the state reported 58 deaths due to consumption of illicit liquor.
“In most cases, however, the government later denies hooch as the cause of death, while family members of the deceased change their statements under pressure to avail compensation and avoid legal action. But everyone knows the reality in the area. The denial syndrome further emboldens those involved with the illicit liquor trade,” said a social activist-cum-prominent trader Hira Prasad.
In Vaishali’s Judawanpur police station area, at least five persons died over Wednesday and Thursday last week, while two others were battling for their lives in a private nursing home in the state capital after they were reported to have consumed spurious liquor.
The latest alleged hooch deaths were reported from Chaksinghar village of Raghopur riverine area, where Jitendra Kumar Ram and Shiv Kumar Ram died in their houses, while Shivji Paswan breathed his last at the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital after consuming spurious liquor at a local party. Two more victims, Lakhwinder Ram and Dinesh Ram died on Thursday, last week, said Vaishali police chief Maneesh.
The SP said that at least three suspects have been arrested and more than six have been detained. Earlier, on Thursday, Vaishali SP and district magistrate (DM) were told by
Lakhwinder’s wife Lalita that her husband consumed liquor and died after vomiting.
Dinesh’s daughter Neha Devi alleged that liquor trade was thriving under the patronage of the police.
In July this year, 16 persons died and several lost their eyesight in Lauriya and Ramnagar police stations area of West Champaran district in an alleged hooch tragedy. Till date police have arrested 31 persons and removed the entire police staff of Lauriya police station for inaction.
West Champaran SP Upendra Nath Verma said the cause of deaths and eyesight loss has been established through scientific investigation but refused to divulge details till the arrest of an important accused. “Once police nab the last and important accused, we will be able to reply [to questions] in the case”, he added.
Similarly, in Nawada, 16 persons, including a teenager, had died due to alleged hooch poisoning after Holi in March. The deceased belonged to Gondapur, Kharidi Bigha, Siswan and New area under Town police station of Nawada.
Nawada SP Dhurat Saayli Savlram said that 10 FIRs have been lodged and 20 accused including two women have been arrested for deaths caused by suspected spurious liquor on Holi (March 31). Five officials, including the station house officer (SHO) of Town police station, and an excise sub-inspector, have been suspended. She said viscera reports of five persons had been sent to Patna FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) to establish if methyl alcohol was used in making the hooch.