More than 12 persons died after consuming suspected hooch in different districts of dry Bihar on Holi, March 19. Local police said the would not be able to confirm the deaths were caused by the consumption of illicit liquor “until post-mortem reports come in”. Bihar was declared a dry State in April 2016 under a stringent Prohibition law.
At least seven persons died in the Amarpur block of Banka district. Four persons died in the Sahibganj area of the Nathnagar locality in Bhagalpur district. The deceased were identified as Raja Tiwari of Kamdeopur, and Raghunandan Poddar, Sanjay Sharma, Sumit Kumar, Vijay Sah, Rahul Singh and Ashish Kumar from other villages. Similarly, at least four persons died in a suspected hooch tragedy in the Sahibganj area in the Nathnagar block of Bhagalpur district. They were identified as Binod Rai, Sandip Yadav, Nilesh Kumar and Mithun Kumar. Abhishek Kumar, a youth, lost his eye sight and has been admitted a hospital in the town.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Prakash Kumar confirmed the deaths of three persons in Sahibganj area but declined to say anything on the “cause of deaths”. “Deaths due to consumption of illicit liquor can be confirmed only after an autopsy report,” Rita Kumari, Station House Officer (SHO) of Vishwavidyalya (University) Police Station under which the Sahibganj area falls, said.
At least three persons died in the Murliganj block of Madhepura district, and several others fell seriously ill and are said to be admitted in private hospitals. “Family members had cremated the bodies before the police came to know about the incident, so the cause of their death could not be ascertained yet,” Murliganj SHO in Madhepura district, Rajkishore Mandal, said.
Local residents on Sunday blocked traffic at the Sahibganj chowk by burning tyres. They also shouted slogans against the district administration. Traffic flow resumed after a heavy deployment of police personnel.
“On the eve of Holi, he had consumed liquor along with others and late at night, he developed some problems in his body like blurred vision and vomiting. Later, he died,” the relative of a victim in the Sahibganj area told media persons on condition of anonymity. The victim’s family members complained that local police had mounted pressure on them to say the death had been caused by some ailments.
Ever since Bihar was declared a dry State in April 2016, hundreds of people have lost their lives after consuming illegal liquor in the State. Lately, over 40 hooch deaths have been reported from several districts, including Gopalganj, West Champaran, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur and Rohtas. Sources said police in Bihar were on high alert to check the supply of illicit liquor during Holi. Recently, the State government deployed drones, drone-fitted helicopters, satellite phones and motorcycle-borne teams of Bihar’s Anti-Liquor Task Force to crackdown on liquor suppliers and smugglers.
After the Supreme Court observed recently that the liquor law in Bihar had “clogged” the State’s lower courts and High Court with cases, the State government has taken some steps to relax the stringent provisions of the law.