January 15, 2015 1:08:58 pm
Snapped out of its slumber following the hooch tragedy in Lucknow and Unnao districts, in which the toll reached 39 Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh Police launched a state-wide crackdown seizing 51,813 litres of illicit liquor and arresting 1,954 vendors involved in the trade.
The raids were conducted at 7,076 hooch dens. “Total 39 persons have died since Monday, which include 32 in Lucknow,” IG (Law and Order) A Satish Ganesh said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who also holds the portfolio of Excise department, directed the removal of all employees and officers of the department posted against the provisions of the transfer policy.
Akhilesh took the decision during a meeting to review the functioning of the department. Over 100 victims were still undergoing treatment in different hospitals in the state capital after they fell ill upon consuming illicit liquor on Sunday.
According to a senior official, the illicit liquor, also known as ‘cheap whisky’, has flourishing business across the state. The lethal intoxicant is prepared using various methods including mixing water in methyl alcohol or by diluting the liquor purchased from the licenced shops.
The increased proportion of methyl alcohol can lead to vision loss, including blindness, and, in worse cases, deaths. Locals also prepare another liquor with molasses and other grains, but that is usually not harmful, the official added.
The illicit liquor is sold in slums in the city area and in the villages at dirt cheap rates —- the major consumers being people from economically weaker sections including daily wage labourers, rickshaw pullers. While a 150-ml pouch of the illicit liquor is sold at Rs 20, a 200-ml bottle of country-made liquor available at government-approved shops goes for Rs 65.
Contacted, Chief Medical Officer, Lucknow, S N S Yadav said, during preliminary examination it has been found that victims of latest tragedy had consumed hooch that had a high content of methyl alcohol. There are chances that many victims will lose vision, he added.
Methyl alcohol, which is a colourless, volatile water soluble agent, is used mainly as an antifreeze and also as solvent fuel. The police found during investigation that the accused used to buy methyl alcohol pilfered by the the tanker drivers.
The CMO added that the symptoms of consuming methyl alcohol include depression, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination and confusion. Large doses can cause unconsciousness and death due to respiratory failure. In most of the hooch tragedies in UP, methyl alcohol is found as the chief adulterant, he said.
IG Zone, Lucknow, Subhash Chandra said it would be part of investigation how methyl alcohol reaches the accused involved in the trade.
During investigation in recent deaths, the police have found that the illegal vendors were purchasing methyl alcohol from a youth who belongs to Lucknow’s Krishna Nagar locality. The police refused to reveal his identity and claimed that efforts are on to arrest him.
It has also been found that this absconding accused also is engaged in preparing the illicit liquor using methyl alcohol and selling it to illegal outlets in slums and rural areas at Rs 150 per litre.
As per the information, this accused gets methyl alcohol from a roadside dhaba in Shahjahanpur district. The dhaba owner purchases methyl alcohol from the drivers of the tankers carrying the chemical from factories.
The investigations also revealed that tanker drivers sell methyl alcohol to selective dhabas and other locals between Hapur and Shahjahanpur districts, said an official.
During questioning of the vendors involved in preparing spurious alcohol, it was found that they mix methyl alcohol with water in the ratio of 8:1.
The official also said that most of the persons involved in the spurious liquor trade are protected by politicians. “Whenever police takes action, political leaders representing that particular caste of the accused create hindrance,” said the officer.
In UP there are also cases where people run smuggling racket of country-made and foreign-make liquors from Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where excise duty is less, said the official.
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