At least 32 people have died in Bihar since Holi on Friday, 18 March, due to suspected consumption of spurious liquor. The police and district authorities, however, have denied that the deaths have occurred due to hooch consumption.
At least 12 people are suspected to have died in Banka and three in Madhepura from drinking hooch. Also, four persons have lost their lives in Bhagalpur's Sahebganj as well as Narayanpur, three deaths each have been reported in Goradih and Kajraily, and one each in Maruf Chak, Shahkund, and Borwa villages.
Seven people have died in Amarpur in Banka district, which has seen the most deaths, while many others are in hospitals in critical condition. The cause of death has not been officially ascertained so far, but family members have indicated that the deceased had drank alcohol on Holi, following which they suffered nausea and a deterioration in health.
Authorities Deny Hooch as Cause of Death
As per the district magistrate of Banka, no death due to drinking alcohol has been confirmed in the district as the post-mortem of those who died was not done. Their last rites have been conducted, and the district administration has said that the families of the dead have stated that the deaths occurred due to illness.
Among those dead in Banka are Vijay Sah, Raghunandan Poddar, Raja Kumar Tiwari, Sanjay Sharma, Sumit Kumar, and Ashish Kumar.
"In Madhepura district all 3 deaths have been due to pre-existing diseases/health conditions, as per their kin," JS Gangwar, ADG HQ, Patna, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
In Bhagalpur, one Abhishek Kumar has lost his eyesight after drinking spurious liquor. He is undergoing treatment at Mayaganj Hospital.
"Of the people who died in suspicious circumstances, post-mortem of two were done after their kin permitted. Death cause to be declared after FSL report. Of the 2 others dead 1 died due to heart attack, other due to ailment, as per family," Bhagalpur District Magistrate Subrat Kumar Sen said, ANI reported. He noted that post-mortems were being conducted in cases where the families were inclined towards the procedure.
In Sahebganj, protesters demonstrated in front of the house of Shyam Chaudhary, who had allegedly smuggled the liquor. A large number of police personnel have been deployed in the area.
"We have received reports from Banka, Bhagalpur, & Madhepura. Post-mortems could not be done on those who died in Banka, their families are not ready to talk," Bihar's Excise Commissioner B Kartikey Dhanji was quoted as saying by ANI.
"Post-mortems have been done on those who died in Bhagalpur. Action will be taken on the basis of post-mortem reports. Probe underway by local police. Post-mortems couldn't happen in Madhepura," he added.
Sale and consumption of alcohol was banned in April 2016 by the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal government. Implementation of the ban has, however, often been deficient, and in October-November 2021, over 40 people had died in different districts of Bihar after consuming hooch.