The death toll from the consumption of illicit liquor in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand rises to 70 people, reported NDTV.
Officials state that while 36 died in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, eight deaths were reported in eastern UP’s Kushinagar and 28 deaths have been reported from Uttarkhand.
Two dozen people remain in the hospital, and doctors warn that the number of deaths could rise.
“There have been 46 postmortems so far, out of which 36 deaths are clearly due to consumption of illicit liquor according to the doctors. Other cases are being ascertained,” said Saharanpur District Magistrate Alok Pandey.
Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, and Rs 50,000 each to those who are in a critical condition after consumption of illicit liquor in Roorkee, reported ANI.
According to an ANI report, 25 FIRs have been registered at three police stations. A crackdown was also conducted by a joint team on Friday, 8 February, during which at least 30 people were arrested, and the Gangster Act and the National Security Act will be applied against them. More than 400 litres of illicit liquor was seized. The crackdown will continue until this is completely finished, said the Saharanpur SSP.
Most of the victims had consumed the liquor on Thursday evening at the ‘tehravin’, the 13th day of mourning after a relative’s death in Balupur village, they said.
Sixteen of the victims died in that village, close to Roorkee, according to the Uttarakhand police.
Eighteen more deaths took place in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, which adjoins Uttarakhand, as people who had attended the ritual returned home, district magistrate Alok Kumar Pandey said.
But at least one man also brought some liquor pouches from Balupur and might have sold them in Saharanpur, officials said.
The Uttarakhand police too said that apart from the 16 deaths in their state, more people died in neighbouring Saharanpur. But they had confirmation of only nine deaths in the UP district from the liquor they consumed in Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand government has suspended 17 administration and police personnel and ordered a magisterial probe. In Uttar Pradesh, 10 policemen have been suspended.
Saharanpur DM Alok Pandey said the victims from Nangal and adjoining villages in his district had gone to Balupur to take part in the ceremony on Thursday.
They were served liquor there in the evening.
The victims started falling ill during the night, officials from both Uttarakhand and UP said.
Many of the Saharanpur victims could not be admitted to hospital because the area was lashed by rain and hailstorms, Pandey said.
In the morning, they were brought to the district medical hospital for treatment.
The deaths in the villages in Haridwar and Uttarakhand districts took place over the day on Friday, even as the authorities warned people not to consume any liquor they might be carrying from Balupur.
Saharanpur authorities Friday night said 42 people were still being treated, but none of them was in a serious condition.
At least two others were being treated in Haridwar district, officials said.
Pandey said a man identified as Pintu had brought 30 pouches of hooch from Balupur village, and may have sold them to others.
It is not immediately clear if some of the victims are among his customers.
One of pouches has been found and sent for forensic examination.
The official said the post-mortem examination has been conducted on 11 of the 18 Saharanpur victims.
In an unrelated case, eight people have died over the week in eastern UP’s Kushinagar district after drinking hooch, officials said.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered departmental action against district excise officers of Kushinagar and Saharanpur, the state government said.
He also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs two lakh each to the relatives of those killed.
NDTV reported that raids have been conducted in parts of the state, including in Banda where a large quantity of illicit liquor was seized.
In Uttarakhand, 13 excise department personnel have been placed under suspension in connection with the hooch tragedy, Haridwar District Magistrate Deepak Rawat said.
“We will catch everyone involved, either this side of the border or that side. This will be an ongoing operation. We cannot deny the deaths but we will clamp down, we have been applying pressure on the border areas and we don’t know the manufacture of spurious liquor in our areas.”Saharanpur Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar.
Four Uttarakhand police personnel, including the Jhabrera station house officer, have been placed under suspension.
Both states announced drives to curb the sale spurious liquor.
(With inputs from NDTV, ANI and PTI.)