Presence of methyl alcohol found in arrack which caused the deaths

The hooch tragedy in which 16 tribals were killed in Poratanagar Thanda in Krishna district, was suspected to be a ‘sabotage' as methyl alcohol was found in the country-made liquor consumed by the victims.

Experts who examined the seized samples of illicitly distilled (ID) liquor and the viscera of those who died found the presence of methyl alcohol, according to Excise Department sources.

``We seized about 10 litres of ID liquor and arrested a woman Ajmera Chinnamma, in Poratanagar Thanda on Sunday, in which the methyl alcohol was mixed. Doctors who performed post-mortem on the bodies stated that the deaths were caused by ‘alcohol poisoning'', an official told The Hindu.

Normally ID liquor brewers prepare `black jaggery' (Nalla bellam), `Alum' (Patika), `Acacia Arabica' (Nalla Thumma Chekka) and molasses combination. The arrack is fermented for 10 to 12 days during rainy season and for a week during summer.

But, the arrack manufacturers mix ammonium phosphate tablets for speedy fermentation during rainy and winter seasons, which brew the ID liquor in four to five days. In this incident, methyl alcohol had been used which was not fit for human consumption, they said.

Methyl alcohol is used as a solvent in manufacturing various drugs and in manufacturing shoe and nail polish, but it is not a product to be used in liquor, said an officer.

Giving strength to the ‘sabotage' angle, the villagers said that there was a quarrel between some women and the ID liquor manufacturers in the Poratanagar Thanda a few days ago.

The women staged a dharna at the `Grama Sarayi' demanding that the liquor sellers not enter the thanda and spoil their families and in the melee the sellers attacked some villagers.

A villager Lavuri Pangidamma said: ``We suspect that the incident was a conspiracy by some ID liquor manufacturers of Naguluru Thanda and Kanimerla Thanda as the locals have enmity with the sellers''.

``It is our regular practice to consume arrack after coming from work. Even women take ID liquor along with other family members. But, there were no incidents of hooch deaths in Poratanagar Thanda or in the neighbouring villages. It was a clear case of sabotage'', said another villager Tajavath Narayana.