98 Dead After Spurious Liquor Consumption in Punjab, 25 Arrested

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry into the deaths in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran.

4 min read
File image of Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh. 

The death toll in Punjab has risen to 98 with 12 more people reported dead in Tarn Taran district after drinking spurious liquor, an official said, reported PTI. Over 17 people were arrested on Saturday, 1 August, in a massive crackdown spanning more than 100 raids. The total number of arrests in the case has gone up to 25.

On 31 July, over 40 raids were conducted across three districts, resulting in the arrest of eight bootleggers. A large amount of spurious liquor, drums and storage cans were recovered from the accused and have been sent for chemical analysis, reported The Tribune.

On Saturday, two more were arrested in connection with the case.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry into the deaths in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran. He has suspended seven excise officials and six policemen, officials said.

"Commissioner, Jalandhar Division will conduct the enquiry and coordinate with concerned SSPs and other officers. Anyone found guilty will not be spared," he wrote in a tweet.

98 Dead After Spurious Liquor Consumption in Punjab, 25 Arrested

The government also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for each of the families of the deceased.

Kejriwal Demands CBI Probe, Punjab CM Reacts

In a scathing counter to the Delhi Chief Minister's demand for CBI probe into the hooch tragedy, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, on Sunday, 2 August, told Arvind Kejriwal to mind his own business and not to exploit the tragic event for reviving his defunct Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state, IANS reported.

On Sunday, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to talk about the issue, calling for the case to be handed over to the CBI claiming that “none of the illicit liquor cases from the last few months have been solved by local police”.

"So many people have died and all you are interested in is making a political gain from it. Don't you have any shame?" Singh asked Kejriwal and told him to concentrate on maintaining law and order in his own state, which was notorious for the brazen manner in which criminals and gangs were roaming the streets, the IANS report added.

Meanwhile, Union Minister and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal blamed Punjab government of carrying out "cover-up exercise" to "save" some party legislators from action in the said tragedy, PTI reported.

The Inquiry

The divisional commissioner of Jalandhar will inquire into the tragedy along with the joint excise and taxation commissioner and SPs (Investigation) of the districts concerned, an official spokesperson reportedly said.

The chief minister has given the commissioner the liberty to co-opt any civil or police officer or any expert to facilitate the expeditious conduct of the probe, news agency PTI reported.

Singh also directed the police to launch a search operation to crack down on spurious liquor manufacturing units operating in the state.

One person, Balwinder Kaur, has also been arrested, under the section dealing with "culpable homicide not amounting to murder," NDTV reported.

May 16, Jaswant Singh from Amritsar’s Muchhal village was booked under the Excise Act in less than four days. On Thursday, Jaswant was one among those who died allegedly after drinking spurious liquor in Muchhal. Soon after his death, police arrested his wife, Balwinder Kaur, for selling illicit liquor, and it turned out that Jaswant had consumed that same stock that allegedly killed other victims.

“An FIR was registered against the husband of Balwinder Kaur on May 21, 2020. It was part of the campaign launched on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in which we registered at least 90 cases in our subdivision alone. It is a bailable offence and Jaswant Singh got bail in the case,” said DSP, Tarsika (Amritsar), Manjeet Singh.

The post-mortems of four victims – Jaswinder Singh, Kashmir Singh, Kirpal Singh and Jaswant Singh – will be conducted to ascertain the exact cause of the deaths.

Giving details of the case, Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta said the first five deaths were reported from Muchhal and Tangra villages in Amritsar Rural area on the night of 29 July, an IANS report said.

Victims' Kin Avoid Probe, Others Protest

Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ishfaq told PTI that families of several victims have refused to accept that their kin died from consuming spurious liquor.

“They are saying their family member died of heart attack,” said the DC.

Another police official told the PTI that a majority of the families were not coming forward and did not want any action. Some of them are not even getting the post-mortem done and buried their kin without informing the police.

The Tribune also reported that the family members of the deceased, Kirpal Singh, held protests at Muchhal village, with his body at the site.

They demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh from the government as well as strict action against the liquor mafia. They also threatened to block the Delhi-Amritsar highway if their demands were not met.

Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Jandiala MLA Sukhwinder Singh Danny and Senior Superintendent of Police Dhruv Dahiya were present at the protest to pacify the family and other protestors.

Dimpa also announced Rs 1 lakh compensation each to the families of the deceased, however, the families were not happy with the amount.

(With inputs from PTI, The Tribune and IANS)

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