30 die in Odisha hooch tragedy

BJD govt orders judicial probe into incident

30 die in Odisha hooch tragedy

The Odisha government on Wednesday ordered a judicial probe into the hooch tragedy in two coastal districts of Cuttack and Khurda even as the death figure in the tragedy went up to 30. The dead also includes one woman.

The toll is expected to rise further as many people affected by the killer brew have been admitted in various hospitals at Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. More than 45 people are struggling for their lives in the government-run Sriram Cha­ndra Bhanja(SCB) medical college and hospital in Cuttack alone, officials said.

The government’s decision to go for a judicial probe into the tragedy was announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. “I have ordered for a judicial probe into the tragic incident. It (probe) will be conducted by a retired judge of the state High Court”, the chief minister said.

Patnaik further maintained that stringent action will be taken against persons responsible for the incident.

“I have already directed the police and the excise department officials to find out the culprits responsible for this tragic incident as early as possible and initiate stringent and exemplary punishment against them”, the chief minister said.

Of the 30 deaths so far, majority have been reported from Mahidharpada area near Cuttack, from where the first deaths were reported on Tuesday evening.

Deaths have also been reported from Bingharpur and Barang in Cuttack district as well as Balianta in the outskirts of capital Bhubaneswar in Khurda district. Preliminary investigation by excise department suggests that the affected people had consumed the killer country liquor which was mixed with liquid medicines including cough syrups with high alcohol content.

“The liquid medicines could have been mixed with the country liquor to give a better kick”, said an excise official.

Excise minister AU Singh­deo, said: “Exact cause of de­aths will be known only after a thorough investigation.

However, Bhubaneswar-Cut­t­ack Police Commissioner B K Sharma said, consumption of overdose of liquid medicines with high alcohol percentage could have led to the tragedy.

“As the medicines were available at a cheaper rate, the victims had used them as liquor for intoxication. Overdose of the medicines led to the tragedy”, the senior police official said.

The Bhubaneswar and Cuttack police along with excise department officials conducted raids on two pharmaceutical units at the Mancheswar industrial area in Bhubaneswar alleged to be the source of liquid medicines.

Nine arrests have so far been made. The arrested includes the owner of one of the pharmaceutical units along with his wife and daughter-in-law. Police have also arrested two sons of Baidhar Bhoi, the owner of an illegally run country liquor outlet who was also killed in the tragedy.

Meanwhile, Congress, the principal opposition party in the state has demanded for a probe by the state Lokpal and not by a judicial commission.

Local villagers on Wednesday resorted to road blockades at a number of places in affected areas demanding compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the family members of the victims. 

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