Second tragedy for West Bengal, moonshine kills 143December 15th, 2011 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS
Diamond Harbour (West Bengal), Dec 15 (IANS) In one of India’s worst liquor tragedies, at least 143 people died and over 100 were hospitalised in rural West Bengal after they drank spurious liquor that came as cheap as Rs.10 a glass. It is the second man-made tragedy to hit the state in less than a week after 93 people died in a hospital inferno in south Kolkata.
The twin incidents, that have killed over 230 people, has begun to raise serious governance questions about the 200-day administration of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The liquor tragedy victims in Sangrampur in South 24 Parganas district were mostly rickshaw pullers, labourers and hawkers, who sat in shanties to drink as a way to relax after a hard day’s work. The drink came for Rs.10 a glass or Rs.20 a plastic pouch and, according to reports, many teenaged boys too are among the victims.
Last Friday, a huge fire tragedy killed 93 people in a south Kolkata’s AMRI hospital.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered a Criminal Investigation Department probe into the liquor deaths in Sangrampur, barely 50 km from capital Kolkata.
The victims, who had Tuesday night visited some illegal liquor dens near Sangrampur railway station in the village, were mostly from the poorest sections of society. Sangrampur falls under the Diamond Harbour sub-divisional headquarter.
The victims started throwing up and collapsing soon after they consumed the liqour, that was mixed with a toxic chemical that has not yet been identified.
“So far 143 people have died,” said Shikha Adhikari, district chief medical officer, Health.
Eight people have been arrested for supplying moonshine in the area, said district police superintendent L.N. Meena.
A health official said the victims died of cardio-respiratory failure due to methyl poisoning. Most victims belonged to Usthi, Mandirbazar and Magrahat police station areas.
Official sources said more people have been admitted to hospitals since Wednesday evening. Patients were coming in even Thursday and the toll was likely to rise, they said.
The Diamond Harbour Sub-Divisional Hospital has been earmarked as the nodal treatment centre for those taken ill after drinking the liquor.
“Altogether 327 people were brought to this hospital. Of them 35 were declared brought dead, 68 died in the hospital. Twenty five died in other hospitals, including those in Kolkata, where they were referred,” Adhikari said.
“Joint raids by police, CID officials and excise department personnel are on to nail the culprits,” said Meena.
A manhunt has been launced to nab prime suspect Khora Badshah, a known bootlegger who operates from Magrahat.
The chemical mixed in the liquor has not yet been identified, said district magistrate N.S. Nigam.
The opposition Left Front has decided to take out a condolence rally from Sangrampur railway station Thursday.
Those taken ill have been admitted to the Diamond Harbour Hospital, health centres and nursing homes. Some have been shifted to Kolkata.
“From around 2 a.m. Wednesday, people started vomiting, had loose motions and complained of serious stomach pain,” said a Sangrampur resident.
Locals said quite a few people died outside hospital as well.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh each for the families of the dead.
This is one of the worst liquor tragedies in India. Earlier in 1992, over 200 people had died in Orissa after consuming spurious liquor. In 2009, a similar incident in Gujarat left 136 dead.
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Tags: adhikari, amri, criminal investigation department, diamond harbour, fire tragedy, health official, hospital inferno, illegal liquor, liqour, mamata banerjee, plastic pouch, police superintendent, railway station, respiratory failure, rickshaw pullers, shikha, spurious liquor, station areas, teenaged boys, west bengal