Manas Dasgupta

Death toll rises to 112; pandemonium erupts in Gujarat Assembly

AHMEDABAD: Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress workers repeatedly clashed on the issue of the illicit liquor tragedy here on Friday, even as the death toll rose to 112. Over 225 people are still in hospitals undergoing treatment.

Unconfirmed reports, however, put the toll at 122 dead, with about 20 more people still very critical.

Most of the schools and colleges in the city, and many shops in the affected eastern parts, remained closed in response to the “Ahmedabad bandh” called by the Youth Congress and the National Students’ Union of India to protest against the alleged police-bootlegger nexus that caused the tragedy. Most offices and public transport systems, however, functioned normally.

As a precautionary measure, the police rounded up about two dozen NSUI leaders on Thursday night. This triggered the clashes.

Some student leaders damaged and locked up the Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar BJP offices in protest against the police action. The BJP workers also attempted to prevent Congress MLAs from marching to the Assembly in “black” dress, but the police intervened.

Charges traded

Pandemonium broke out in the Assembly as soon as the House met, with Congress members raising slogans obstructing the day’s business. The House later named 11 members and suspended them for three days, while other Opposition members walked out.

As the Congress MLAs sat in a dharna near the Mahatma Gandhi statue on the Assembly lawns, some BJP workers allegedly attacked them.

Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil alleged it was a “pre-planned” move by the BJP government to “suppress” the voice of the Opposition.

Minister of State for Home Amit Shah countered Mr. Gohil’s allegations and claimed that he and other senior Congress leaders had beaten up the BJP workers.

Mr. Shah said the BJP workers filed a complaint with the Gandhinagar police, and the Speaker of the House, Ashok Bhatt, had sought a police report on the clash.

As the hospitals were trying to cope with the continuous rush of patients, there were complaints of negligence by doctors, nurses and administrative staff.

A woman in Khokhra, which falls in Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, claimed that hospital authorities refused to admit her husband and advised her to take him to a private hospital, and that the delay cost him his life.

Many lives saved

The kidney institute on the civil hospital premises, however, is said to have saved at least 52 lives through dialysis, after some officials diverted the more critical and complicated cases to the institute.

According to reports from different sources, more than 90 people affected by the spurious liquor were complaining of vision loss and other complications.

Meanwhile, the NSUI has called for a “Gandhinagar bandh” on Saturday.