Bihar hooch tragedy toll rises to 26; Nitish Kumar says those who consume alcohol will die

Opposition stage a walkout from the Assembly and sat on a demonstration demanding Mr. Kumar’s resignation over hooch tragedy.

Updated - December 16, 2022 02:34 am IST

Published - December 15, 2022 01:37 pm IST - Patna

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar arrives at the State Assembly in Patna on December 15, 2022 amid a protest by Opposition legislators over the recent hooch tragedy in Saran district.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar arrives at the State Assembly in Patna on December 15, 2022 amid a protest by Opposition legislators over the recent hooch tragedy in Saran district. | Photo Credit: PTI

The toll of deaths in the hooch tragedy in dry Bihar went up to 26 on Thursday while villagers said over 40 people have died so far.

Reacting over the incident, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “those who consume liquor, will die. There is nothing new in it”.

The Opposition Bhartiya Janata Party legislators made a ruckus in the Bihar legislature and demanded Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s resignation over hooch tragedy. The BJP members also raised issue in Rajya Sabha in Delhi.

“So far, we’ve got reports of death of 26 people in Saran district in hooch tragedy, still some people are admitted in hospital”, Saran District Magistrate Rajesh Meena said.

Mr. Meena also said that recommendation has been made to remove and departmental action against Marhaura Deputy Superintendent of Police Indrajit Baitha for ‘dereliction in duty’.

Both Masrakh police Inspector and Chowkidar (watchman) have been suspended with immediate effect for “negligence in duty”.

Also Read | BJP MPs say Nitish Kumar should reconsider Bihar prohibition policy

Several people have been taken into custody and interrogation of them is on, said Superintendent of Police, Saran, Santosh Kumar.

Meanwhile, speaking to media persons over hooch tragedy, Mr. Kumar said that those who consume liquor, will die.

Jo sharab piyega, who marege hi…isme koi nayee baat nahi hai. Udharan samne hai, piyoge to maroge (those who consume liquor, will die... there is nothing new in it. Example is before us, if you drink, you will die),” Mr. Kumar said.

Nitish lost his cool

On Wednesday, Mr. Kumar lost his cool against Opposition BJP MLAs and charged them that they had become drunkard.

“Sharabi ho gaye ho tum (the BJP legislators)”, fumed Mr. Kumar.

Meanwhile, senior State BJP leader and party Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi said that over 1,000 people have died in the last six years ever since liquor was banned in Bihar and over 6 lakh people were arrested for violation of new liquor laws.

Liquor was banned in Bihar on April 5, 2016 under new Prohibition and Excise Act.

“Bihar has now become a police State,” charged Mr. Modi while adding, “Yes, BJP had supported prohibition laws in the State but when so many people have died and arrested under this law, the government must review it.”

Pandemonium inside the State Assembly

On Thursday, Opposition BJP legislators raised the issue of hooch deaths in Saran district and created pandemonium inside the State Assembly and Council. They, later, staged a walkout from the House and sat on a demonstration outside legislature demanding CM Nitish Kumar’s resignation over hooch tragedy.

“It’s like massacre and the government must review the liquor policy”, said ruling alliance Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA Sudhakar Singh. Mr. Singh, recently, had to resign from the post of State Agriculture minister after he flagged corruption issues in his department by officials.

BJP leader like Samrat Choudhury who is Leader of Opposition in state Council, too termed the deaths in hooch tragedy in Saran as “massacre”.

“The victim family members must lodge an FIR against CM Nitish Kumar for deaths”, said Mr. Choudhury.

However, ruling JD(U) leaders asked, “why should CM Nitish Kumar resign for the hooch tragedy? Had the Prime Minister and Gujarat CM resigned over Morbi bridge collapse incident in which about 200 people had died? The hooch deaths in Bihar had happened even when BJP was ruling ally with us but at that time they didn’t demand CM’s resignation?”, wondered JD(U) leader and party MLC Sanjay Singh.

Several people struggling for life

The villagers at Masrakh, Marhaura, Amnour and Ishuapur blocks of Chhapra, district headquarter of Saran district on Thursday claimed that “over 40 people have died so far in the tragedy and still several are struggling for their life in different hospitals of the district”.

“The death toll may reach upto 50. Most of them who have died are from poor families who even have no money to buy woods to consign bodies for funeral rites”, said a villager of Masrakh bazaar Sunil Singh.

“The government had brought in this liquor policy without mulling over it and consulting common people. Only liquor mafias, policemen and excise officials are proliferating over the prohibition policy while the poor people are dying like this”, added Mr. Singh, a local businessman.

“Those who can afford are having liquor at higher cost through home delivery but not such deadly desi (country made) liquor which is proving fatal for the poor people”, Mr. Singh said.

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