Bihar hooch tragedy: Death toll rises to 39; political blame game at play
The death toll in suspected hooch tragedy climbed to 39 in dry Bihar on Thursday amid the political blame game in the state.
The deaths were reported from Saran district on Wednesday, triggering a slugfest in the Bihar Assembly where the ruling ‘Mahagathbandhan’ led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Opposition BJP traded charges over the tragedy.
According to Sunil Kumar, the state’s minister for prohibition, the deaths have been reported from Mashrak and Isuapur police station areas of Saran.
Sale and consumption of alcohol was completely banned in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar government in April, 2016.
Dr Sagar Dulal Sinha, the Civil Surgeon-cum-Medical Officer In-charge of Saran, said, “Most of them were declared dead at a hospital in Chhapra, the district headquarters. Some, who had been ill since Tuesday morning, died while undergoing treatment”.
Since it is suspected that all the deceased had consumed some intoxicant, after the post-mortem the viscera will be sent to a forensic laboratory at Muzaffarpur for examination, Sinha told PTI over phone.
The district administration, meanwhile, said it has constituted teams of officials, who will tour the affected villages and meet the bereaved families to track down those who might have served illicit liquor.
Reconsider liquor ban: Giriraj Singh
Bihar BJP leaders, including Union minister Giriraj Singh, asked Nitish Kumar to reconsider the prohibition policy in the state, claiming that it has failed with illegal sale of spurious liquor causing frequent deaths and a rise in crimes linked to it.
"Every day people in Bihar are dying due to spurious liquor while Kumar remains obstinate about his policy which has failed. Crime is on the rise. Liquor has become like God which may not be visible but is present everywhere in the state," Singh said.
Singh told reporters outside Parliament that Kumar should convene an all-party meeting on the issue and take a decision accordingly. "If a policy is not successful, then it should be reconsidered," he said.
Political blame game
The issue rocked the Bihar assembly, where BJP MLAs entered the well, raising slogans against the government and demanding compensation to family mebers of those who lost their lives in Saran.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to whom prohibition is a move inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and hence close to his heart, rose in his chair angrily and stood admonishing the BJP legislators, waving fingers at them.
The din caused Speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary to adjourn the proceedings for 15 minutes, within half an hour of commencement at 11 am, and the unruly scenes continued when the House re-assembled.
BJP members demanded an apology from the chief minister, who was then not in his chair, and staged a walkout when the Zero Hour began.
The demand for apology was raised by the BJP MLAs again after lunch, when both the CM and Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav were present inside the House. All the opposition MLAs walked out in protest as the Speaker went ahead with the day’s business.
Outside the House, Leader of the Opposition Vijay Kumar Sinha told reporters, “The CM owes his current term in office to us (BJP) but he ditched us and joined those he had been accusing of jungle raj (RJD). In their company, he has picked up their ways, which is evident from the intimidating and insulting language he used against us on the floor of the House”.
Leader of the Opposition in Vidhan Parishad Samrat Chaudhary added: “We are appalled to learn about the behaviour of the chief minister inside the assembly. He seems to have lost his moorings and should resign”.
Tejashwi Yadav, replying to queries of journalists, said the BJP should remember that Bihar has witnessed many hooch deaths while it was in power.
“Many of its own leaders have also been accused of involvement in illicit liquor trade.
It should not make hypocritical noises but cooperate with the government which is making honest efforts to curb liquor consumption,” he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary said the BJP members should understand that consuming liquor in Bihar is a crime, and thus, deaths caused cannot be compensated for. “It will be tantamount to supporting liquor consumption."
Meanwhile, RJD MLA and former minister Sudhaker Singh said that the saffron party, having shared power with Nitish Kumar, had no moral right to raise a hue and cry on the matter, but he seconded the view that prohibition was “a complete failure” in Bihar.
“The matter should be investigated by a commission of inquiry headed by a sitting high court judge. Almost every day hundreds of people get arrested for consuming alcohol. How is liquor available to so many people if those in power are not involved in some way,” he said.
Also Read: 'Sharabi ho gaye tum log,' Nitish Kumar loses cool after Oppn drama over Chhapra hooch tragedy | WATCH
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