8 die after consuming hooch in Bengal, more than 40 in hospital
At least eight people died and more than a dozen were hospitalised in West Bengal’s Nadia district on Tuesday night after they consumed hooch suspected to be laced with methanol, officials said on Wednesday, prompting the Trinamool Congress government to order a probe.
The incident happened at Nrisinghapur village, about 100km from state capital Kolkata.
Nadia district magistrate Sumit Gupta had earlier said that at least seven persons had died and a medical team sent to the village along with the sub-divisional officer and the block development officer, while he was at the hospital.
Those dead were identified as Bhaloya Mahato (40), Dularchand Mahato (41), Sunil Mahato (35), Buto Mahato (35), Kashinath Mahato (55), Munna Roy (35), Goutam Sharma (24) and Basudev Mahato (43).
The deaths were reported from the Kalna hospital in Burdwan district and three at Shantipur State General Hospital. As many as 30 were admitted to Kalna hospital and 14 were in Shantipur.
“We suspect methanol poisoning,” Dr Jayanta Biswas, superintendent of the hospital in Shantipur, said.
Methyl alcohol, or methanol, is toxic but it is mixed with hooch to increase the intoxicating power of the drink.
District police superintendent Rupesh Kumar said that of the six persons named in the FIR, police have arrested four.
“CID will investigate the tragedy,” state finance and excise minister Amit Mitra said.
The government would also pay ₹2 lakh as compensation to the families that have lost a member.
“Investigation is on to find out whether the toxic alcohol was imported to Bengal from Bihar or Jharkhand,” Mitra said.
Zilla sabhadhipati or the president of Nadia district council Rikta Kundu said about 40 people had consumed hooch on Tuesday night.
“There are a few sellers of hooch in the village. They are in the business over the past two-three years,” Ramabati Mahato, a homemaker, said while referring to the Tuesday night tragedy.
Two villagers Ramkrishna Mahato and Kartik Mahato told the media from Shantipur hospital that they rushed to the hospital after they heard that a few fellow villagers had died after consuming hooch.
“We are not feeling unwell but came here as a precautionary measure,” said Ramkrishna.
Located by the Hooghly river, the village is a poor one where most earn their living as brickfield workers, small farmers and agricultural labourers.
The deaths triggered a torrent of criticism from the opposition.
“Unable to check the menace of spurious liquor, the Bengal government has created a fund for insurance for liquor-related deaths. If compensation has to be given at all, the amount should be deducted from the salary of the state ministers including the chief minister,” the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national secretary Rahul Sinha said.
“The state government should concentrate on tracking the brains behind the supply of toxic alcohol. Who are patronising them?” Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya asked.
“Can the government squander taxpayers’ money for this purpose?” Samik Lahiri, former Lok Sabha MP from the CPI(M), questioned.
The tragedy comes two months after a court convicted four people in the toxic liquor case of December 2011 that killed 172 and blinded several others in South Parganas district’s Sangrampur village.