Punjab hooch tragedy toll rises to 84; Oppn attacks Amarinder
AMRITSAR: The death toll in the Punjab hooch tragedy rose to 84 as 43 more people died on Saturday, officials familiar with the matter said.
A majority of the deaths, 62, were reported from Tarn Taran district, with Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts registering 11 deaths each. The police have arrested 25 people, including one of the key accused-- Darshan Rani, alias Faujan, in connection with the deaths across the three districts, officials said.
The police have seized large quantities of ‘lahan’ (raw material used for making liquor) from various villages and ‘dhabas’ in the region around the Shambhu border, Rajpura and Patiala, Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta said. The raids have exposed a massive liquor racket, extending across several districts, he said, adding that several dhabas at Shambhu, Banur and Rajpura of Patiala have been sealed.
An excise department official said on condition of anonymity that though reports of the chemical analysis of the material seized in police raids were yet to arrive, a preliminary check showed that the material was denatured spirit, generally used in the paint or hardware industry.
News agency PTI reported that chief minister Amarinder Singh has ordered the suspension of seven excise officials, along with six policemen over negligence of duty. Among the suspended officials are two deputy superintendents of police and four station house officers, the news agency said. The CM also announced Rs 2 lakh ex gratia for each of the families of the deceased.
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal attacked the state government over the deaths. “The hooch tragedy is the direct and natural consequence of the patronage given to Congress leaders, including ministers and MLAs, for freely carrying out rampant illicit liquor trade in the state,” he said in a statement. Reacting to the charges, Amarinder urged not to “politicise the tragedy”, saying such cases had happened earlier too under the SAD-BJP regime.