Gujarat Hooch Tragedy: Death Toll Rises to 33, State Govt Forms Probe Panel
"We have booked 14 people on murder charges and have already detained most of the accused," Gujarat DGP Bhatia said.
At least 33 people have died and 45 others remain admitted to different hospitals in Gujarat’s Botad after they consumed spurious liquor, officials said on Tuesday, 26 July.
"So far, 33 persons – 24 in Botad district and nine in its neighbouring Ahmedabad – have died after consuming spurious liquor," news agency PTI quoted a police official attached with the State Monitoring Cell in Gandhinagar.
Earlier in the day, Gujarat DGP Ashish Bhatia had said that a total of 28 people have died in the tragedy.
He added that three First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered against 14 people on charges of murder and other offences and that most of them have been detained.
In the view of the incident, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel convened a high-level meeting later in the day, reported news agency ANI.
"Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel chaired a high-level meeting over the Botad spurious liquor incident and directed state police to take strict action against illegal sellers of narcotic substances," CMO said.
State Home Dept Orders Probe
The Gujarat Home Department, in a press release, said that it has formed a three-member committee, headed by senior IPS officer Subhash Trivedi, to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident and submit a report within three days.
The other two members of the committee are Director of Prohibition and Excise MA Gandhi and Director of Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory HP Sanghvi.
According to preliminary investigation by the police, a man identified as Jayesh aka Raju stolen 600 liters of methyl alcohol from a godown in Ahmedabad, and sold it to his Botad-based cousin for Rs 40,000 on 25 July.
"Despite knowing that it's an industrial solvent, Sanjay sold that chemical to bootleggers of different villages of Botad. These bootleggers mixed water in that chemical and sold it to people as country-made liquor," PTI quoted DGP Ashish Bhatia as saying.
Besides, more than 45 people are currently admitted to hospitals in Bhavnagar, Botad and Ahmedabad, the DGP added. Recently, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and Ahmedabad Crime Branch also joined the investigation.
The incident came to light after some residents of Barvala taluka’s Rojid village in Botad district and some other surrounding villages were referred to government hospitals in Barvala and Botad after their health started deteriorating early Monday morning, a few hours after consuming the spurious alcohol.
The liquor was made from the highly poisonous methyl alcohol, Bhatia told reporters in Gandhinagar, adding that it was added directly to water. He said that over 600 litres of the mixture was sold at Rs 40,000.
"A forensic analysis has established that the deceased consumed methyl alcohol. We have booked 14 people on charge of murder and other offences and already detained most of the accused," Bhatia said.
Inspector General of Police (Bhavnagar range), Ashok Kumar Yadav, visited the Botad civil hospital on Monday evening and said that a SIT under a Deputy Superintendent of Police-rank officer will be formed to probe the incident and nab bootleggers who sold the spurious liquor.
Arvind Kejriwal Demands Probe
Calling the incident "unfortunate," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is on a Gujarat visit, alleged that illegal liquor is being sold in large quantities in Gujarat where prohibition is in place. He alleged that people selling illicit liquor are enjoying political protection and demanded a probe into the "trail" of money generated by selling booze.
"It is unfortunate that despite prohibition, illegal liquor is sold in huge quantities in Gujarat. Who are the people who sell illegal liquor? They enjoy political protection. Where does the money (generated by selling illegal liquor) go? This needs to be probed."Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal speaking to reporters in Porbandar
The Gujarat Prohibition Act, earlier known as the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, empowers the police to arrest a person for purchasing, consuming or serving alcohol without a permit with punishment ranging from three months to five years in prison. It also penalises the transporting of liquor.
(With inputs from PTI.)
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