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News & Information From Northeast India

Assam hooch tragedy death toll reaches 155, NHRC issues notices

Assam parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patwary on Monday informed the state assembly that 155 people have died till Monday after consuming spurious liquor in Golaghat and Jorhat districts of Assam.

Over 160 people are admitted in different hospitals in the two districts.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday took cognizance of media reports and said: “Reportedly, there are more than 300 people admitted for treatment in the hospitals. As per news reports, police authorities have expressed apprehension that the methanol used in the hooch is the reason behind the deaths”.

The commission has issued notices to the state chief secretary calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks, including action taken against officers, relief and rehabilitation provided to the victims and their dependents along with status of the medical treatment being provided to those who are still fighting for their lives in the hospitals.

The commission also expects from the Union home secretary to issue necessary directions to the directors general of police of all states and UTs calling upon them to issue guidelines to enhance police vigil in the affected areas of their states and take strict legal action against the culprits.

The commission has observed that a few days back, it had expressed concern over the death of people in hooch tragedy in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as, apparently, the state authorities had failed to take effective measures against violators of law.

“It appears that this issue of spurious and illicit liquor is not restricted to one or two states; it has become a serious issue at the national level. The law is very much in existence to deal with this menace, but in view of present scenario, it seems that there is a need to sensitize the police and the excise authorities in the states to be more active and vigilant,” the statement said.

According to media reports, at least 20 people, have been arrested in connection with the incident in Assam. During a raid at a godown, the police have recovered jaggery, alum and urea used as the main ingredients in making the illicit liquor.

The excise department has reportedly stated that the poor quality jaggery, meant for cattle feed is routed for making hooch and it is impossible to check its sale. The records furnished by the excise department however expose lapses on their part.

Reportedly, two persons were arrested from Jugibari village of district Golaghat in December, 2018. The village is adjacent to Halmira Tea Estate which supplies hooch to the local distributors.

The distributors, reportedly, purchased five-liter cans for anything between Rs 350 and Rs 450 to sell it to the consumers. One of the villagers had stated that there were at least three persons in the village, who instead of making hooch from jaggery, mixed spirit with water and sold it openly.

It is also mentioned in the news reports that some people mixed spirit with liquor before consuming, which led to their deaths. Reportedly, as many as five suspected distributors of the hooch were also among the dead.

Image Credits: Biju Boro.

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