At least 13 people have died in Bihar’s Gopalganj town, allegedly after consuming toxic alcohol, reports said. According to a report in the Indian Express, the victims consumed the spurious liquor on Monday night. The first death was reported on Tuesday morning, after which the toll rose rapidly. An NDTV report said five others were still in critical condition.
Dr M.P. Singh, a civil surgeon at the Gopalganj Sadar Hospital, was quoted by Indian Express as saying that the victims arrived at the hospital on Tuesday morning with complaints of nausea and acute stomach ache. While three of them were referred to Patna and six to Gorakhpur, most of them died either on their way to hospital or on reaching there.
The local administration has not yet confirmed the cause of death, saying this would be possible only after post-mortems were complete. But families of the victims have said the symptoms started after they drank hooch bought from illicit liquor stores, India Today reported.
Meanwhile, Indian Express reported, the police conducted raids on Tuesday and Wednesday. Five people were arrested and 50 bottles of liquor were seized. Additional director general of police Sunil Kumar said at least 4,707 people were arrested in the last four months and 3,719 police complaints lodged in connection with the liquor ban being broken.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered Saran divisional commissioner Narmadeshwar Lal to probe the deaths and submit a report, Indian Express said. Three teams have been set up to probe the deaths.
Questioning the state government’s role in the matter, BJP legislature party leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi asked whether Kumar “would take responsibility for the deaths”.
“Overall, 30 people, including the 13 in Gopalganj, have died due to consumption of spurious liquor. But the administration fudges the report, blaming the deaths on contaminated food. Only Mahadalits and the poor are suffering due to Nitish’s Taliban-like ban on liquor,” Indian Express quoted Modi as saying.
The state government disagreed. “Such incidents are taking place because the opposition has not been supporting the liquor law,” JD(U) state president Bashistha Narayan told Indian Express.
Prohibition was imposed in the state of Bihar in April this year. It was argued that this law would not change things for the better, instead would drive the underground liquor trade for the benefit of liquor mafias.