Punjab hooch tragedy toll mounts to 41, CM orders magisterial probe
A day after seven men of Muchhal village in Baba Bakala sub-division died allegedly after consuming spurious liquor, as many as 34 more deaths under similar circumstances were reported from around 20 villages of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts on Friday, taking up the toll to 41. Of the 34 fresh deaths, four were reported from Muchhal village in Amritsar district, 19 from Tarn Taran and 11 from Batala. The toll may go up as many more were hospitalised.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered a magisterial inquiry and deputed Jalandhar divisional commissioner to conduct a probe. The CM assured of strict action against those found complicit in the illegal trade. He also directed the police to crack down on spurious liquor-manufacturing units across the state.
Punjab Police on Friday arrested seven more people from Amritsar, Batala and Tarn Taran districts in over 40 raids conducted by five teams. A woman, Balwinder Kaur, was arrested on Thursday. One Mithu was arrested from Amritsar Rural area; Darshan Rani and Rajan from Batala; and Kashmir Singh, Angrez Singh, Amarjit and Baljit from Tarn Taran.
Four fresh deaths were reported from Muchhal village. They were identified as Jaswant Singh, Joga Singh, Kirpal Singh and Gurpreet Singh. Jaswant is the husband of Balwinder Kaur who was arrested by the police on suspicion of selling home-made liquor in the village. She was booked under Section 304 (culpable homicide) of the IPC and 61-1-14 of the Excise Act by the Tarsikka police.
Nineteen deaths were reported from Tarn Taran district. Some of the victims were identified as Gurdeep Singh (50) of Muradpura village, Sukhchain Singh (45) of Jodhpur village, Sucha Singh (80) and Resham Singh (45) of Pandoori Gola village, Nirvail Singh (50) of Jawanda Kalan, Varinder Singh (25) of Kakka Kandiala, Parkash Singh (48) of Bhullar village, Amardeep Singh (45) of Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar, Gurvail Singh (45) of Bachre village, and Pyara Singh (45) and Bhag Mal (50) of Sach Khand Road. Tarn Taran deputy commissioner (DC) Kulwant Singh said nine deaths were confirmed. “I have information some victims were cremated before the administration was informed. We are also ascertaining the circumstances under which these deaths took place,” he said. Tarn Taran sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Rajneesh Arora said six more people were undergoing treatment in various hospitals and their condition is stated to be critical.
Gurpreet Singh, 25, of Sach Khand road area in Tarn Taran said, “My father Pyara Singh had gone out to have drinks on Thursday night, but he didn’t return. On Friday morning, we found him lying dead in the ground along the Sarhali road. He drank spurious liquor and died.” He said the rampant sale of liquor in the area has not only taken his father’s life, but also three of his uncles. “A case of murder should be registered against those who sold liquor to my father”.
“After consuming liquor, my father Bhag Mal fell ill on Thursday night. We rushed him to Tarn Taran civil hospital where he was declared brought dead,” said Preetam Singh of Sach Khand road. The kin of the victims said had the police acted against the menace of countrymade liquor in time, the lives could have been saved.
In Batala, 11 people died after drinking locally-brewed liquor (hooch) at Hathi Gate and adjoining localities on Thursday night. The victims were identified as Buta Ram, Bhupinder, Jatinder, Kallu, Bitta, Rinku, Kala, Naresh, Surinder, Jaspal Singh and Jagdish. Also, two others, Dharminder and Darshan, were undergoing treatment at an Amritsar hospital.
A police team led by Batala DSP (city) Parvinder Kaur was hunting for a woman, popularly known as ‘Faujan’, who is tipped to have supplied the spurious liquor in the area. DSP Kaur said a case under sections 304, 328 of the IPC, and 61/1/14 of the Excise Act was registered against unidentified people and investigations were on.
Rahul of Batala’s Kazimori locality said around 9pm on Thursday, his uncle Buta Ram returned drunk. “He told us that he bought liquor from a woman and after consuming it, he was feeling uneasy. Within half an hour, my uncle started vomiting and collapsed. He died at a hospital late night,” he said.
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said raiding teams seized chemicals and other material used in illegal and they have been sent for chemical analysis. “More arrests are likely. The crackdown on the spurious liquor mafia will continue,” he said.