Chhapra: At least nine people died and 15 others fell ill with some of them even losing their eyesight in a suspected hooch tragedy in Saran district of dry Bihar, officials said on Friday. It is, however not known when the spurious liquor was consumed as the family members of victims are not ready to share information.
Saran district magistrate Rajesh Meena said all the cases were reported from villages falling under Maker police station area and more than 17 people among the ‘seriously ill have suffered loss of vision’. ‘Prima facie it appears that the villagers had consumed spurious liquor. Five people died here while two deaths occurred at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) where those who have fallen seriously ill were referred on Thursday’, he said.
Saran Superintendent of Police Santosh Kumar said We are conducting raids in Maker, Marhaura and Bheldi police station areas to nab the suspected bootleggers. We will be able to state the number of arrests after the operation is over. Asked when the deceased and the ill had consumed the liquor, the SP said that it will be known after investigation. ‘Family members are not forthcoming with the information’, he said. To another query, Kumar said that two victims died at PMCH on Thursday. ‘We are not sure of the other deaths as the bodies were cremated without informing the police or a post mortem’.
According to local residents, the drunken revelry began on Tuesday night and continued through the early hours of Wednesday. They said consumption of intoxicants like cannabis has been a custom during Nag Panchami festival, which fell on August 2 this year, and some took alcohol for intoxication. State minister Ashok Choudhary, a key aide of Nitish Kumar, told reporters in Patna that all the accused will be apprehended and brought to justice. ‘Action will also be taken against those police personnel whose laxity, or even complicity, may have led to the incident’. Asked about questions being raised over feasibility of prohibition law in the light of hooch cases being reported regularly, Choudhary shot back ‘Dowry deaths have not stopped, nor have rapes. But that does not mean we scrap laws against these crimes’.
More than 50 people have died in hooch tragedies in the state, declared a dry state over six years ago, since November 2021. Saran itself had reported five hooch deaths in January this year. In July two persons had died after consuming spurious liquor in Patna. Sale and consumption of liquor were completely banned in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar government in April, 2016, following an electoral promise the chief minister had made to the women of Bihar ahead of state polls held in the previous year. However, implementation of the stringent prohibition law has often been criticised by the opposition parties, the courts and also ruling alliance partners like former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.