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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Assam hooch tragedy toll goes up to 84, investigation on

The incident took place at the Halmira Tea Estate in Assam’s Golaghat district after the tea estate workers people consumed a locally brewed liquor called ‘sulai’, which is made of jaggery and ethyl alcohol.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2019 14:13 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times
Victims are under medical treatment at Jorhat hospital after allegedly drinking toxic bootleg liquor in Assam's Golaghat district on February 22, 2019.
Victims are under medical treatment at Jorhat hospital after allegedly drinking toxic bootleg liquor in Assam's Golaghat district on February 22, 2019.(AFP)
         

The number of dead in the Assam hooch tragedy has gone up to 84 with the maximum number of deaths being reported from Golaghat district. The deaths have been reported from Salmara in Golaghat and Borghola and Titabor in Jorhat. The number of dead is expected to go up. As many as 221 people have been admitted at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital and another 93 have been admitted to the Golaghat civil hospital.

According to R Bhuyan, director of health services, Assam, 45 deaths have been reported from the Jorhat medical college and hospital, 35 from the Golaghat civil hospital and 4 from Titabor.

The incident took place at the Halmira Tea Estate in Assam’s Golaghat district after the tea estate workers people consumed a locally brewed liquor called ‘sulai’, which is made of jaggery and ethyl alcohol. The Halmira Tea Estate is about 300 km from Guwahati. Of the 68 dead, as many as 38 are reported to be from the Halmira Tea Estate.

The deaths come less than a fortnight after nearly 100 people died of alcohol poisoning from country-made liquor in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

A one-person inquiry commission has been set up by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to investigate the incident.

The first of the deaths took place around 7pm on Thursday evening, said Ratul Bordoloi, joint director (health) Golaghat. Bordoloi has been monitoring the situation and said that the preliminary cause of the deaths seems to have been alcohol poisoning.

The Halmira Tea estate Hospital where the workers were taken initially. Among the dead are 38 workers from the tea estate, said  Pranjal Sharma, the doctor in charge.
The Halmira Tea estate Hospital where the workers were taken initially. Among the dead are 38 workers from the tea estate, said Pranjal Sharma, the doctor in charge. ( HT Photo )

Among the dead were 65-year-old Dhrupadi Oran from whose house the illicit alcohol was bought by the workers at the Halmira Tea Estate. Dhrupadi’s son Sanju Oran, 30, was also among the deceased.

Also among the dead were some people from the neighbouring Jorhat district. The police are trying to find out how and from where they had obtained the liquor.

Initial investigations indicate that Sanju had brought the liquor from outside the tea estate. Deputy superintendent of police, Partha Protim Saikia, said that the liquor seems to have been brewed outside the tea estate and was brought in by Sanju in a jerrycan.

It is suspected that instead of using ethyl alcohol, the brewers used methyl alcohol, which is poisonous to humans. Methyl alcohol is added to the brews to increase its potency, albeit in very small doses.

Sanju’s partner Pompi Oran said that he would often get liquor from the neighbouring village and would sell it. “Some days he would get 5 litres or 10 litres or 15 litres and would sell it,” she said.

Sanju was a temporary worker at the tea estate and was to marry Pompi Oran next month. Sanju and Pompi have two children. Saikia said that Sanju’s death has come as a setback in the investigation, but also said that the police has a lead as to where the alcohol came from and are looking into it.

First Published: Feb 23, 2019 12:19 IST

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