Uttarakhand government has suspended 17 administration and police personnel and ordered a magisterial probe.
The death toll in the hooch tragedy that hit two adjoining districts in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh rose to at least 61 with more people dying of the spurious liquor they drank at a Haridwar village, officials said. Officials fear the number could rise as the viscera examination on 20 more bodies is yet to be conducted to find out if these too were alcohol-related deaths. Twenty-five of the victims died in Balupur and its neighbouring villages in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district, state’s Additional Director General (Law and Order) Ashok Kumar said.
According to an Uttar Pradesh government statement released in the evening in Lucknow, 36 died in Saharanpur district which adjoins Uttarakhand. They Saharanpur victims had returned home to their villages in the district after drinking the spurious liquor in Balupur on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Saharanpur officials had said 46 people from the district died due to the consumption of spurious liquor – 35 in the district itself and 11 more at a Meerut hospital to which they had been referred.
In addition, the viscera examination on 11 others was yet to be performed, officials had then said. In the evening, however, the district authorities said while liquor poisoning had been confirmed as the cause of death of 36 people, the viscera test needed to be performed on 20 more bodies. The viscera examination is in addition to the routine post-mortem. In Uttarakhand, about 15 people are still under treatment. Most of the victims had consumed the liquor Thursday evening after the `tehravin’, the 13th day of mourning ritual, following a relative’s death in Balupur, officials said.
Uttar Pradesh police, however, added that a Saharanpur district resident may have brought 30 pouches of the same liquor from Uttarakhand for sale back home. This may have led to more casualties, an official said, but the investigation into this is still on. Both states have suspended administration and police officials for alleged negligence and ordered probes. They have also announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those killed.
Earlier, Saharanpur district magistrate Alok Pandey said people from Nangal and adjoining villages in his district had started falling ill when they returned home from Balupur. Many of them were not immediately admitted to hospital as the area was hit by rain and a hailstorm, he said. Up to late Friday night, 16 people had died in Haridwar and 18 more in Saharanpur. By Saturday afternoon, the combined death toll had risen sharply. In an unrelated incident, nine people have died over the week in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district, allegedly after drinking spurious liquor.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered departmental action against district excise officers of Kushinagar and Saharanpur, the state government said. Four Saharanpur excise officials have been suspended. In Uttarakhand, 13 excise department personnel and four policemen have been placed under suspension. Ten policemen were suspended Friday in Uttar Pradesh. Both states announced drives to curb the sale of spurious liquor. In a fortnight-long drive begun Friday, the UP authorities have so far registered 297 cases after raids, arresting 175 people.