Hooch tragedy toll rises to 167

Shiv Sahay Singh Kolkata | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 16, 2011

hooch   -  Business Line

The death toll in the spurious liquor tragedy that struck Sangrampur and adjoining villages in the Diamond Harbour subdivision of the State's South 24 Parganas mounted to 167 on Friday with nearly 100 other persons fighting for their lives in hospitals.

The shadow of death has descended in the area since the tragedy that claimed its first victims on Wednesday. Ambulances kept ferrying the ill to the Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital even as rickshaws were carrying the bodies of the dead back to their homes in the opposite direction.

‘Tragic situation'

“The situation in the villages is very tragic. In some villages 40 -50 people have died, most of them earning members of the family,” said Md Giyasuddin Molla, MLA from Magrahat Paschim constituency.

Villagers ransacked the house of one of the kingpins of the hooch mafia, ‘Khora Badhsha' at Magrahat, who they alleged had a brewery and of late also supplied liquor to several areas including Sangrampur from Charan and Magrahat areas.

While a few fresh arrests were made today, taking the number of those arrested after the incident to 12, all known bootleggers including ‘Khora Badshah' remained elusive. An officer in charge of Excise department of Diamond Harbour range has been suspended for failing to conduct raids on illicit liquor dens in the area.

Collector's report

Mr N.S. Nigam, the district magistrate, submitted a preliminary report to the State administration. It was learnt that the report mentioned the abnormally high level of methyl alcohol in the liquor samples heightening its toxicity.

But doctors who examined the patients at the hospital said that “symptoms of conventional poisoning was not evident among the patients” giving hints that there can be chemicals mixed with alcohol for heightened intoxication. Had those who had fallen ill after consumption of the illicit liquor brought in earlier, several lives could have been saved.

Locals admitted that initially there was a delay in admitting patients to the hospital. While the families of those taken ill feared police harassment, the other deterrent was the social stigma of drinking illicit liquor.

Interestingly, it was only after the State government announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh that many of the patients were brought to the hospital.

370 hospitalised

“So far about 370 patients have been admitted at the hospital of which 96 have been released,” Dr Sikha Adhikari, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the district, South 24 Parganas, said. Fifty doctors were working round the clock at the hospital, which is woefully short of facilities.

The situation in city hospitals such as M R Bangur Hospital and Chittaranjan National Medical College was the same as the subdivision hospital at Diamond Harbour, with more patients pouring in and the authorities struggling to accommodate the rush. While there was improvement in the health parameters of some patients, there were cases of patients losing eyesight.

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Published on December 16, 2011
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