Hooch toll rises to eight, angry residents target police (Lead)

April 6th, 2009 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Angry residents ransacked a police booth, blocked roads and raised slogans against the police in west Delhi Monday as two more people died after they drank spurious liquor, taking the toll in the past five days in Delhi to eight.
However, residents of two west Delhi localities claim that 15 people have died of spurious liquor.

All the victims, mostly rickshaw-pullers and daily wage labourers, were from Raghuvir Nagar and Vishnu Garden area. They were aged between 20 and 55 and mostly were also the sole bread winners of their families.

“We suspect that eight people may have died due to consuming country-made liquor,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (west Delhi) Sharad Aggarwal.

He said that 12 deaths were reported, but the post-mortem wexaminations of four “suggest that they have died a natural death due to some disease”.

“The post-mortem reports of the eight deaths are awaited. But we have registered six cases and arrested a 31-year-old bootlegger, Seema, from nearby Tagore Garden Extension area,” he added.

A police official said that there are around 70 bootleggers in the area and the police were trying to bust the illicit liquor trade network. However, they were “facing difficulty as most of them have gone underground”.

A police source said that Seema, who recently had a heart surgery, was “not responding positively during her interrogation”.

“Seema is facing 10 criminal cases. She claims she quit the business of selling country-made liquor two years ago,” the source added.

The police said they were waiting to question two affected patients admitted in hospital. “We want to know from where they purchased the liquor. But their condition is serious,” said a police official.

The police have sent samples of the liquor for forensic tests.

“We suspect that the Shaukeen brand, which is sold in authorized government wine shops, may have been adulterated by the accused to earn more profit. It is the same liquor brand that led to the deaths of over a dozen people last month in southwest Delhi,” the official said.

“We are checking where this liquor is being manufactured,” the official added.

Meanwhile, the residents of the area held protests throughout the day. The police deployed quick reaction teams and a large number of personnel to deal with the situation.

A police booth was vandalized and its windows smashed by the protesters. People blocked roads at various places and raised anti-police slogans. They alleged the police were in cahoots with the bootleggers.

“The police are trying to suppress the matter. They take bribes from the liquor mafia and are shielding the accused,” said Basanti, who lost her husband two days ago.

Raman, who lost his brother, said: “The police are not acting against the accused and even forced us to cremate the bodies.”

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