Aligarh hooch tragedy: Death toll rises to 36

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Aligarh (UP), May 31 (PTI) The toll in the Aligarh hooch tragedy climbed to 36 on Monday with 11 more deaths being confirmed by the district authorities amid apprehension that it may rise further.

Viscera samples of 35 other people, who are suspected to have died after consuming spurious liquor, have been sent for examination to confirm the cause of death, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Bhanu Pratap Kalyani said.

Former Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA from Aligarh Zameerullah Khan produced before the media the families of 12 people who he claimed died over the past three days after consuming the spurious liquor and whose post-mortem was not conducted. He demanded that the state government provide compensation to all such families.

Meanwhile, three people in Chandana locality here fell ill after consuming liquor. They were hospitalised in a serious condition, police sources said.

CMO Kalyani said, 'A total of 71 bodies have arrived at the post-mortem house from Friday to Monday forenoon. Liquor poisoning has been confirmed as the cause of death for 36 of these people.' The post-mortem examination of the remaining 35 bodies has also been conducted. Though these people are also suspected to have died of liquor poisoning, the cause of death will be confirmed once the viscera report comes, he said.

BJP Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam accused the district authorities of 'protecting some corrupt officials in the excise department and attempting to implicate some innocent businessmen'. He said he would raise the issue with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The MP, who had claimed on Sunday that the death toll in the hooch tragedy had crossed 35, said the district magistrate cannot 'escape responsibility' of identifying and listing the names of those who have lost their lives in this tragedy.

Gautam also denied reports that he is 'using his influence to protect some businessmen who are close to him'.

'Let the police investigate such cases with a free hand and catch the real culprits. But I will not allow any official to cover up his lapses by diverting attention and framing innocent people,' he said, adding that he will meet the CM shortly to apprise him of the situation.

District Magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh did not comment on Gautam's allegations.

SP leader Zameerullah Khan produced before the media the families of 12 people who allegedly died over the past three days after consuming the spurious liquor and 'whose last rites were conducted under pressure without a post-mortem examination'.

He demanded that compensation be given to all such families.

In one case, Khan claimed, a woman whose husband was among the hooch tragedy victims who were cremated without a post-mortem examination has been running from pillar to post with her four-day-old child to seek compensation.

'Can such victims be denied ex-gratia relief on vague technical grounds?' he asked.

The SP leader further claimed that there are similar cases in several other villages and they should be investigated immediately in order to prevent further agony for the bereaved families.

Other opposition parties also alleged discrepancies in the official death toll.

President of the Bahujan Samaj Party's Aligarh unit Ratandeep Singh said he has also written to the district magistrate regarding the 12 cases from Lodha, Rait and Sujaapur villages in which the alleged hooch tragedy victims' last rites were conducted 'without a post-mortem examination'.

He claimed there are several such cases that can only be traced by conducting a detailed survey of the affected villages.

Congress leader Pradeep Mathur alleged that the local administration is hiding facts and the number of deaths is 'much higher'. He also accused the state government of 'patronising' the liquor mafia.

In a statement, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kalanidhi Naithani said two inspectors under Tappal police station were suspended on Sunday after reports were received that liquor shops are operating freely in their area.

Similarly, the station house officer of Akrabad police station and another inspector were suspended after it came to light that a factory manufacturing spurious liquor had been operating in their area for the past six months, he said.

UP Additional Chief Secretary (Excise) Sanjay Bhoosreddy said Joint Excise Commissioner, Agra Zone, Ravi Shankar Pathak has been suspended and Joint Excise Commissioner, Lucknow, Dheeraj Singh has been given the additional charge.

Deputy Excise Commissioner, Aligarh, O P Singh has also been suspended. Deputy Excise Commissioner Vijay Kumar Mishra has been given the additional charge. Action has also been initiated against seven other officials, he said.

Commissioner, Aligarh Division, Gaurav Dayal held a high-level meeting to review the situation and instructed officials to continue raids and take stern action against the liquor mafia.

Meanwhile, three people in Chandana locality under Kuwarsi police station area here fell ill early this morning after consuming liquor. They were rushed to the hospital in a serious condition, the police sources said.

As of Sunday, 11 of the 12 people, including kingpin Anil Chaudhary, booked in connection with the hooch tragedy had been arrested, according to police.

Raids are being carried out across the district to seize illegal liquor. The district authorities have been sending teams to villages to urge people not to consume liquor bought a week ago. PTI CORR SAB NAV DIV DIV

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