Six persons have lost their eyesight while 16 have been arrested in the incident.

At least four persons died and over a dozen fell critically ill in a fresh hooch tragedy in Bihar’s Siwan district. Six persons have lost their eyesight while 16 have been arrested in the incident. Bihar was declared a dry State in April 2016.

The Incident happened in Bala village of the Bhopatpur panchayat of Siwan district where villagers consumed spurious liquor on January 21 and from Sunday night their condition started deteriorating and they were admitted to Siwan district hospital.

According to a statement issued by the Siwan district administration, ‘at least 10 people were admitted to the Siwan district hospital around 7 p.m. on Sunday after they complained of stomach pain, nausea and dizziness’. District Magistrate Amit Kumar Pandey said the ‘cause of death will only be ascertained after post-mortem report’. ‘We have also spoken to the villagers and urged them to report fearlessly about illegal liquor trade in their area. No innocent will be harassed and a medical team is camping at the village. An investigating team has been formed and we will be able to divulge more details once we get the autopsy report’, said Mr. Pandey.

A senior police official of the district, on condition of anonymity, admitted to The Hindu that at least four persons have died and 14 are admitted to different hospitals of Siwan, Gorakhpur (in eastern Uttar Pradesh) and Patna. However, villagers said the death toll had gone up to seven in Siwan while six persons lost their eyesight.

Additional Director General of Police Jitendra Singh Gangwar said 16 persons had been arrested in the incident. ‘Senior district police officials have reached the village for further investigation. Spirit was brought from Kolkata for making sanitiser which was transported to Siwan from Muzaffarpur on January 18’, Mr. Gangwar told media persons.

'Death toll up’

Meanwhile, the villagers claimed the death toll had gone up to seven and they listed the names of the deceased in Siwan hooch tragedy as: Surendra Rawat (30), Naresh Rawat (42), Dhurendhar Manjhi (37), Janakdeo Rawat (30), Jitendra Manjhi (18), Rajesh Rawat (25) and Raju Manjhi (35). ‘All of them along with other villagers had consumed spurious liquor locally and returned home. Their condition deteriorated on Sunday night and they died by next morning,’ an inconsolable relative of Janakdeo Rawat told media persons in the village. ‘Besides, several villagers are critical and admitted to different hospitals’, he added.

Earlier in December 2022, at least 42 people had died after consuming spurious liquor in neighboring Saran district. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken suo motu cognisance of the Saran incident for investigation. The incident had also triggered political slugfest in the Bihar Assembly with Opposition BJP leaders demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his government's ‘utter failure in implementing prohibition effectively’ in the State. The BJP leaders also claimed that over 100 people had died in Saran hooch incident.

Stringent punishment

Under the new State Prohibition and Excise Act (2016), Bihar was declared a dry State with stringent provisions of punishment to the violators. However, the government amended the law thrice in last six years but, over five lakh people have been arrested under new liquor law in the State and several lakh litres of liquor were seized. Departmental actions were taken against hundreds of policemen and excise department officials for violating the liquor law or, conniving with illegal liquor smugglers. Illicit liquor is smuggled into different corners of Bihar from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and neighbouring countries with porous borders like Nepal and Bangladesh. Traders bring illegal liquor into the State in milk vans, LPG cylinder vans, empty truck tyres, ambulances, and through railway staff etc. People claim that there has been home delivery of liquor at premium rates. Mr. Kumar, meanwhile, has been reiterating that liquor will continue to be banned in the State ‘at any cost’.

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