86 Die in Hooch Tragedy at Amritsar

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CHANDIGARH:  At least 86 people have died after consuming spurious liquor in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran districts of Punjab and the state police have arrested twenty five bootleggers in over 100 raids conducted by five police
teams. 

The husband of the alleged main accused woman also died in the tragedy.  He had recently come out on bail in a case of supplying illegal liquor.

Families of the deceased are protesting seeking compensation from the state government and have refused to record their statements. Demanding strict action against the liquor mafia, the family members of the deceased Kirpal Singh kept his body at the protest site and demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh as protests were held at Muchhal village in Amritsar (Rural). The protestors have threatened that they would block the Amritsar-Delhi National Highway if their demands were not met.

On the other hand, a few families are not getting their statements recorded as they fear social stigma. “Many families are not coming forward to record their statements as they do not want any action and are also not getting the post mortem done due to the fear of social stigma,’’ said a police officer.

Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur, Mohammad Ishfaq said, “Some families have refused to accept the dead bodies of their family members as they say that their kin did not die due to consuming spurious liquor but due to attack.”
 
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said that the raiding parties have seized large quantities of Lahan from various villages and dhabas in the region around Shambhu border, Rajpura and Patiala. The raids had exposed a massive racket in illicit liquor, extending across several districts. The dhabas, identified as Zilmil Dhaba, Green Dhaba, Chhinda Dhaba on Shambhu, and Banur and Rajpura in Patiala have been sealed. A mafia mastermind, a woman kingpin, a transport owner, a wanted criminal and owners and managers of various dhabas from where the illicit liquor was being supplied are among the arrested. As much as 750 litres of Lahan has been seized from village Baghaura from where two persons, Satnam and Rashem, had been arrested while another, identified as Lakhwinder, had been identified as a culprit. 

Kingpin Darshan Rani was arrested by Batala Police, while another key accused Beeri, of  Deo village in Tarn Taran, has also been arrested for supplying the spurious alcohol. Prem Singh, the owner of Azad Transport, and Bhinda (wanted by Tarn Taran Police) were arrested by Rajpura police in raids conducted today.

One of the key arrested accused who was bringing spurious liquor from Tarn Taran to Amritsar Rural area has been identified as Govinderbir Singh of Jandiala. He was the main mastermind of the mafia in Amritsar Rural District.

Describing the modus operandi of the accused, Gupta said the trucks carrying spirit would be stopped at 6 to 7 identified Dhabas and the Dhaba owners collected the hooch from truck drivers and sold it to one Bhinda who was also accused in
Rajpura factory case and Bittu of a village near Banur. Sources said that a large amount of spurious liquor, drums and storage cans were recovered from the accused and have been sent for chemical analysis to check for constituents of spurious liquor.

Deputy Commissioner of Taran Taran, Kulwant Singh said, “In Taran taran alone, the death tally has now touched 63 as maximum deaths are from the city and Sadar areas. A few families have cremated the bodies without informing the police.”

Besides Taran Taran eleven deaths have been reported so far from Batala in Gurdaspur and twelve in Amritsar. The death toll could rise further as the spurious liquor network was evidently spread across many areas.

Seven Excise & Taxation Officers and Inspectors, along with two DSPs and four SHOs of Punjab Police have been suspended by the state government in connection with the hooch tragedy. The government announced Rs 2 lakhs ex-gratia compensation to each of the families of the deceased.
 

The Member of Parliament from Khadoor Sahib, Jasbir Singh Dimpa, along with MLA from Jandiala, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, and Senior Superintendent of Police Dhruv Dhaiya reached the spot to pacify the protesters. Dimpa announced Rs 1 lakh compensation to each of the families of the deceased.

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