Toll in Kolkata liquor tragedy rises to 23, six arrested (Lead)

January 5th, 2009 - 6:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 5 (IANS) The number of people who died in Kolkata after consuming poisonous country-made liquor has risen to 23, a West Bengal minister said Monday. Six people were arrested and raids conducted on illicit liquor shops in the Khidirpore port area.”Twenty-three people have died after consuming spurious liquor since Saturday night at Khidirpore port area (south-west Kolkata),” Finance and Excise Department Minister Asim Dasgupta told reporters Monday.

Dasgupta said six people have been arrested and three officers of the excise department and city police have been issued show cause notices in the hooch tragedy.

“Six brewers have been arrested and several detained in the hooch tragedy. The Excise Directorate has sent show cause notices to two officers and the city police commissioner has issued a notice to one of his officers. Based on their statement, proper departmental action will be taken,” Dasgupta said.

The minister said joint raids are being conducted by the Excise Directorate and Kolkata Police in the area since Sunday night.

“A night-long raid was conducted Sunday by Excise officers and the city police. Today illicit liquor shops were raided and demolished in the Khidirpore area. We are also trying to locate the source of this poisonous hooch,” Dasgupta said.

“The government will bear the medical expenses of the victims admitted in hospital. We will also see if compensation can be given to the families of the deceased,” he said.

Dasgupta said raids would be conducted regularly across Kolkata on illicit liquor shops.

“The Excise Department and Kolkata Police have decided to keep a watch on illicit liquor dens. Regular raids will be conducted across the city. We are thinking of conducting such raids in the districts too,” Dasgupta said.

Many labourers at the Bibi Halt and Hooghly Basti areas of Khidirpore fell ill after a late night drinking session Saturday. They started vomiting blood and writhed in pain after reaching home from the illegally-run liquor shops. Many died before they could be taken to the hospital.

An angry mob later damaged several shops.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who visited the area Sunday evening, demanded a probe by a judge of the Calcutta High Court. Banerjee threatened to lay siege to the West Port police station Tuesday if the culprits were not brought to book. She also announced a compensation of Rs.10,000 to the families of each of the deceased.

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