At least 29 have died, 50 others are critical in hospitals across two affected districts

Consumption of spurious liquor has resulted in a series of deaths in several villages in Cuttack and Khurda districts of Odisha. On Wednesday, at least 29 persons had died and 50 others were critical in different hospitals across the districts. The casualties began on Monday as people started taking ill after consuming liquor from a vendor in Mahidharpada village in Cuttack Sadar area. Five persons had died by Tuesday evening.

The deaths, however, kept rising as more and more people from several villages, including Bhingarpur in Khurda district, were rushed to the SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack and other private hospitals.

The death toll is likely to go up as at least 20 persons were stated to be critical in hospital. The liquor seized from the outlet in question was found to be laced with medicines that had a high concentration of alcohol.

The brew seller, Baidhar Bhoi, who had been running the spurious liquor outlet for the past several years, was among the first to die. Two of his sons and his wife have since been arrested.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a judicial inquiry into the tragedy as the Opposition parties staged road blocks demanding the resignation of Mr. Patnaik and Excise Minister A.U. Singh Deo. The judicial probe will be conducted by a retired High Court judge.

Many leaders of the Opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that the spurious liquor was distributed by the activists of the ruling Biju Janata Dal ahead of the panchayat polls, which are scheduled to be held in five phases from February 11.

The Congress further said the judicial probe would not serve any purpose and the matter should be handed over to the Lokpal of the State for inquiry. The party also demanded a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each to the victims' next of kin.

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