Hooch Tragedy: Two more arrested, deaths create political storm in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand

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Published: February 12, 2019 2:25:17 AM

Claiming that number of deaths due to the hooch tragedy in the state and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had already climbed to 130, state Congress chief Pritam Singh said those who were behind the tragedy were yet to be brought to books.

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A political storm rocked BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on Monday over death of a large number of people in a hooch tragedy with the opposition pegging the toll at over 130, prompting the two state administrations to intensify their probe and arrest a father-son duo for supplying the spurious liquor. While officials put the number of deaths at 72 — 36 each in Hardwar in Uttarakhand and adjoining Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress and other opposition parties said the toll was much higher and demanded dismissal of the two state governments. Uttarakhand government set up its own Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the tragedy, a day after a similar step was taken by Uttar Pradesh. Intensifying its crackdown, Uttarakhand Police said it has arrested two more persons on Monday, taking the total number of people held for the tragedy to four. The police said they are looking for another key accused. Hardev and Sukhwinder alias Sukha, residents of Punden village of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, were arrested by the Uttarkhand Police from near Ekbalpur Fatak in Jhabrera area of the district, SSP Haridwar Janmejay Khanduri told reporters in Roorkee.

On Sunday, the police had arrested another man and his son. In a separate incident, at least nine people had last week died after consuming hooch in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Alleging that laxity on the part of the Uttar Pradesh government led to the large number of deaths, opposition members Monday created ruckus in the Assembly and demanded Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation. The uproar by opposition members — over the incident in Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts last week — led to adjournment of the entire Question Hour. As soon as the House met, opposition SP, BSP and Congress members tried to raise the matter terming it one of utmost importance. The SP and the BSP members trooped into the Well of the House, raising anti-government slogans. Adityanath warned that exemplary punishment will be given to those responsible for the deaths, while saying “some people’ were trying to vitiate the atmosphere in the state. The chief minister while addressing the joint sitting of the two Houses of the state legislature said the government will delve into the details and find out who were playing with the lives of the poor.

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“Some people are trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state. The incident (hooch deaths) is unfortunate. Whosoever will be found guilty, he will get such a punishment that it will set an example for conspirators,” he said in the state assembly. The five-member SIT by the UP government has been specifically asked to find whether there was any conspiracy behind the tragedies. It has also been asked to review past incidents and submit its report, suggesting measures to stop recurrence of such incidents, within 10 days. The Budget Session of the Uttarakhand Assembly, which began on Monday, also saw massive uproar over the deaths. Opposition Congress demanded the dismissal of the Trivendra Singh Rawat government, accusing it of being insensitive to the plight of families which had lost their kin in the hooch tragedy. Barely five minutes into Governor Baby Rani Maurya’s address, the opposition members led by Pradesh Congress president and Chakrata MLA Pritam Singh rushed into the well of the House with placards, demanding dismissal of the state government and stern action against those responsible for the tragedy.

They then staged a walkout from the Assembly. Claiming that number of deaths due to the hooch tragedy in the state and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had already climbed to 130, state Congress chief Pritam Singh said those who were behind the tragedy were yet to be brought to books. Later in the night, ADG (Law and Order) Ashok Kumar said the state government has constituted an SIT under IG Garhwal range Ajay Rautela to look into the incident The father-son duo, who was arrested Monday, has told the police during preliminary interrogation that they did not manufacture the liquor but bought a drum of it of nearly 400 litres from one Arjun who lives in Tejupur village in Bhagwanpur area, officials said. Police is now in searching for Arjun, they said. Fakira and his son Sonu were arrested yesterday. They told police that they bought the illicit liquor from Hardev and Sukhwinder and sold it to people in neighbouring villages.

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