Aligarh hooch tragedy death toll rises to 25

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Aligarh (UP), May 30 (PTI) The death toll in the Aligarh hooch tragedy climbed to 25 on Sunday, officials here said.

BJP Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam, however, said according to information gathered by him, the death toll has crossed 35.

In a series of raids on Sunday, six police teams managed to nab four more people wanted in connection with Friday's hooch tragedy.

Police said with Sunday's arrests, 11 of the 12 people booked in connection with the hooch tragedy have been arrested during the past 48 hours. Search is on for Rishi Sharma, reportedly close to kingpin Anil Chaudhary who was arrested on Saturday. Sharma has strong political links and was recently elected as a member of his village panchayat.

Apart from Anil Chaudhary, those arrested in the past day are his close associate Vipin Yadav, Narendra, Ajay Singh, Ganga Sahai, Kapil Sharma, his wife Renu Sharma, Vivek Kumar, Sonu Sharma, Niraj Sharma and Ajay Chaudhary.

A large stock of illicit liquor has also been seized in these raids.

Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani on Saturday said that a reward of Rs 50,000 each has been announced one the arrest of Rishi Sharma and Vipin Yadav.

Raids have also been conducted in the city and the police of the Kuwarsi police station nabbed five people on Sunday who were allegedly involved in illicit liquor trade. A large stock of spurious foreign liquor was also seized.

The SSP said the raids will continue throughout the night.

The excise department and police conducted a joint raid in the district's Tappal block and arrested a person with a large stock of illicit liquor.

Acting on a tip-off, the house of one Monu Srichand in Nurpur village was raided and 243 pouches of illicit liquor were seized, said SSP Kalanidhi Naithani. He has been booked under the Excise Act.

Naithani said police teams and administrative staff are combing rural areas and cautioning residents against consuming any liquor purchased a week back. They are also checking the stock at liquor vends across the district.

Officials are seizing liquor pouches to help identify the spurious liquor stock that found its way to government-authorised vends.

Former leader of Congress Legislative Party in UP Assembly Pradeep Mathur, who visited the villages from where deaths were reported on Sunday said the toll is likely to touch 40 and accused the district magistrate of hiding facts.

BJP Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam told reporters that according to information gathered by him, the death toll has crossed 35 and his figure is based on inputs collected by him from different villages 'where many victims have been cremated without post-mortem'.

Asked why the official figures and the information collected by him was different, the MP said, 'I will be meeting the officials today (Sunday) and we will discuss this issue. There is no question of hiding anything. A person who has been a victim of this tragedy will ultimately find his name on the official death list.' According to district officials, the victims were limited to Aligarh's Lodha block on the first day but have now spread to at least four more blocks.

A Congress delegation visited three villages in the district from where deaths were reported.

'We visited three villages from where deaths were reported. The local administration is hiding the facts and the number of deaths is much more. We have demanded that Rs 5 lakh be paid to the kin of the deceased and given a house in the village. The DM should be immediately transferred, as he is hiding data,' Mathur told PTI, and accused the state government of 'patronising' liquor mafia.

'The toll is likely to touch 40... The deaths are due to the negligence of the district administration and the excise department. Things have gone out of hand for the BJP government and the public is affected by its non-performance,' Mathur said.

The other Congress leaders in the delegation were Vivek Bansal, Deepak Kumar, Yogesh Dixit, Badruddin Quereshi and Mukesh Dhangar.

On Sunday afternoon, a row broke out at a post-mortem house when some staff members allegedly tried to prevent mediapersons from taking pictures of bodies lined up there. Gautam rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control.

Meanwhile, Lodha police station in-charge Abhay Kumar Sharma has been suspended for dereliction of duty, according to an announcement on Saturday evening. The first death in the hooch tragedy was reported in this police station area.

District Magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh said a magisterial probe will reveal the exact death toll.

According to reports, some victims had consumed the killer brew even a day after the first deaths were reported on Friday. The district magistrate has recommended an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased. PTI CORR NAV NSD NSD