175 arrested in connection with hooch deaths, toll 77
LUCKNOW/UMAHI( SAHARANPUR): As the death toll in the hooch tragedy that hit Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh rose to at least 77, the Uttar Pradesh police on Saturday arrested 175 people in possibly the biggest crackdown yet on those involved in manufacture and sale of bootleg liquor.
Police also stepped up raids and an official said a record 92,697 litre of illicit liquor was seized from across Uttar Pradesh, while 297 separate cases were filed.
The first of the deaths were reported on Thursday and by late Saturday, 37 had died in Saharanpur district of western Uttar Pradesh, 11 in Kushinagar district of eastern UP while another 31 had succumbed to the poisoning in Balupur and neighbouring villages in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district. In at least the Saharanpur and the Haridwar district deaths, the hooch is suspected to be from the same source, possibly made in villages that fall near the Uttarakhand-up border.
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath also spoke to his Uttarakhand counterpart Trivendra Singh Rawat for a coordinated crackdown on bootlegging rings. “We won’t spare the guilty. We are focusing on the mastermind,” Adityanath said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader hinted involvement of the Samajwadi Party, saying, “In the past, too, such type of mischievous acts by SP leaders had come to the fore. In Azamgarh, Hardoi Kanpur and Barabanki, SP leaders were found to be involved in past hooch tragedies. We can’t deny a conspiracy this time too.
Between July 2017 – four months after the BJP government came to power in UP – and last week, at least 74 people died after consumer hooch. Consumption of bootleg liquor is a problem in rural districts of India, where the poor are often unable to afford legal alcohol. Such liquor turns poisonous if brewed improperly.
Family members of the victims who fell critically ill after consuming spurious liquor wait outside a hospital in Saharanpur on Saturday.