Survivors demand 10 times more ex-gratia
When dawn broke on Friday, screams could be heard from the far end of this village where Dalits live. Village pradhan Mussarat Jahan’s husband Mumtaj Ali rushed to the Dalit quarters where, he said, he was told that three men had died after drinking tainted liquor the previous night.
As villagers consoled the grieving families, reports of more people having fallen sick after consuming the same liquor came in. By the end of Friday, 11 more died, taking the toll in Umahi to 14, the highest in a single village among four villages in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts and neighbouring Uttarakhand’s Haridwar where spurious liquor claimed 77 lives. Pradhan Pati (pradhan’s husband) Ali listed 23 people among dead and those taken ill in Umahi after drinking the liquor.
Twelve of the 14 dead were Dalits and the other two Muslims who consumed the liquor after purchasing it from a person identified simply as Pintu, a Dalit. Pintu also consumed the liquor with his father Balram, brother Jal Singh, uncle Shyamu and another relative, Rajkumar. All five of them were among the dead.
Matloob, a member of the block development committee, claimed that barring Shyamu and Rajkumar, the other 12 victims were less than 40 years old and left behind children as young as three years and as old as 16.
Reports of people dying and falling critically ill after consuming spurious liquor also came in from the nearby villages of Mali, Sarbatpur and Salempur.
Saharanpur district magistrate Alok Kumar Pandey admitted to the deaths of 36 villagers in the district and claimed that an ex-gratia payment of ~2 lakh each was already distributed to families of 16 of the victims.Chief minister Yogi Adityanath had on Friday ordered payment to the kin.
The survivors weren’t pleased with the amount. The money wouldn’t be enough for the families to survive, some residents said, and demanded 10 times as much to secure families’ future.