42 Dead in Gujarat Hooch Tragedy: A Village Mourns Its Young

'Despite prohibition, liquor is sold openly,' claim families of victims days after the Gujarat hooch tragedy.

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Gatoor Bhai, who works as an agricultural labourer in Devgana village in Gujarat’s Botad district, is father of four children. Every day, he toils in the fields from 8 am to 5 pm and is paid Rs 200 for that. Raising his four children with that measly sum at the end of the day has been hard.

On 26 July, his life got harder, when the responsibility of his brother’s four children also fell on him. His brother, 40-year-old Kannu Bhai, is one of the 42 people who died after drinking spurious liquor in Gujarat’s Botad and Ahmedabad districts. In his village, at least 10 people have died so far.

“How will I feed eight children now?” he asked.

So far, at least 32 people from Botad have died due to this, while the other 10 are from Ahmedabad. It is important to note that Gujarat is a dry state.


On 28 July, the SP of Botad, Karan Raj Vaghela was transferred. A day before that, he told The Quint, “This is not a case of consumption of spurious liquor. These people died after drinking a chemical diluted in water. We have arrested multiple people involved in the manufacture and sale of this chemical. Currently, we are interrogating 12 people.”

The Quint visited two villages in Botad district – which is around 130 km away from Ahmedabad – and met families of those who died in this tragedy.

At least 10 people died in Botad's Rojid village alone due to the consumption of the contested drink.

(Photo: Sahal Qureshi/The Quint)

'Liqour Being Sold Openly in Our Village For 30 Years'

Raju Bhai, who is the up-sarpanch of Rojid village in Botad, claims that in February 2022, he submitted a written complaint to SP Botad about the “illegal sale of liquor” in his village.

Five months later, on 26 July, his 35-year-old nephew Dinesh died after consuming the contested drink. He is survived by his two-year-old child. Raju Bhai told The Quint, “My nephew’s wife also died a while back, so now that child will live with his grandmother. The government should help us.”

Raju Bhai said that like most men in the village, Dinesh too was a labourer, and earned a meagre wage at the end of the day. “He would return from work and then drink. We know that Gujarat is a dry state and consumption of alcohol is prohibited but I have been seeing sale of liquor in our village for over 30 years now.”

He claimed that even if the police came to the village on being informed about the sale of liquor, “the sale would resume in two days." Another relative of Dinesh’s claimed that the authorities “knew about the sale but didn’t do anything till these deaths occurred.”

A few hours after Dinesh consumed the contested drink, he complained of “blurry vision and vomiting” after which he was admitted to a hospital in Bhavnagar, around 90 km away from the village. He died there.


‘Who Will Take Care of The Children Now?’

Tragedy struck the Vaghela family in Botad’s Rojid village on 27 July when three members of their family died after drinking the contested spurious liquor.

The three men, part of the Valmiki community, were aged 25 years, 28 years and 60 years. “My brother-in-law Deepak was the sole breadwinner of the family comprising ageing parents and two little girls aged three and six years. After he drank, he complained of blindness and vomiting,” said Praveen, a relative who came to Rojid from Mumbai to attend the last rites.

Three members of the Vaghela family died in the tragedy.

(Photo: Sahal Qureshi/The Quint)

The three men, part of the Valmiki community, were aged 25 years, 28 years and 60 years. “My brother-in-law Deepak was the sole breadwinner of the family comprising ageing parents and two little girls aged three and six years. After he drank, he complained of blindness and vomiting,” said Praveen, a relative who came to Rojid from Mumbai to attend the last rites.

He said that Deepak was a safai karamchari and earned Rs 100-200 a day. “Uska kaam kharab tha, who kabhi kabhi peeta tha. (His work was bad, he used to drink sometimes),” said Praveen.

The other two men who died were Deepak’s maternal uncle and his cousin, who he lived with. His family now demands that the government help take care and educate his daughters. “People sell liquor on the sly here even though it’s not allowed. Young people are dying, leaving behind such young children. Now such a serious incident has happened, the government should take it seriously and ensure that it’s not repeated,” said Praveen.


‘No Politician Has Told Me How They Will Stop This Menace’

Dhartika Thakur – one of 52-year-old Devji Bhai’s six children – recalls how her father complained of dizziness a morning after drinking, and how quickly it took a turn for the worse. “By evening, we had to take him to the Bhavnagar hospital, where he died,” she told The Quint.

A resident of Rojid village, where the first death was reported from, Dhartika said that it’s “common knowledge that alcohol is sold in the village. Everyone is responsible for this tragedy – the person who sold it, the person who drank it, and the government.” Her father, like her brother, was a labourer and earned a measly sum daily.

She said that since the incident, a lot of politicians have visited Rojid village but “none have promised me when and how they can stop this sale and manufacture of liquor.”

Her elder sister was recently engaged, and Dhartika demands that “the government take care of her sister’s wedding expenses now that their father is no more.”

‘Brother Drank and Complained of Fire in The Belly, Chest’

Last year, 40-year-old Kannu Bhai’s wife left him after she got sick of his drinking, said his brother Gatoor. “She left him because he used to drink daily. They have four children, and now even he is gone,” he said, as he fought back tears.


Gatoor, a resident of Devgana village, is now taking care of eight children. On 25 July evening, his brother complained of “stomach ache, chest pain, dizziness and vomiting.” “Kannu said it was like there was fire inside him. He was taken to the Bhavnagar hospital in an ambulance but his condition got worse. Hours later, he died,” said Gatoor.

Gatoor's wife with the children of his brother Kannu Bhai who died after consuming spurious liquor.

(Photo: Sahal Qureshi/The Quint)

He said that liquor was being sold in the village till a few years ago. “I don’t know where he got it from. He only earned Rs 150 a day,” said Gatoor.

For years, the two brothers argued over this habit, with Gatoor often reminding him that Kannu had children to take care of. “I would tell him that his health will suffer but he would ask me to mind my own business. He would say that he’s free to spend the money he earned his way. Now, he’s gone,” said Gatoor.

Kannu’s children are aged three years, four years, eight years and nine years. “I earn so little working on fields. I have debts on me. How will I live? I am requesting the government with folded hands to help us,” said Gatoor.

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Topics:  BJP Gujarat 

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