Mumbai Hooch toll 102, Cong demands CM's resignation

Mumbai Hooch toll 102, Cong demands CM's resignation

The toll in Mumbai's worst hooch tragedy rose to 102 today with the death of five more victims who consumed spurious liquor in Malad area and another 46 are in hospitals with eight of them struggling to survive serious ill-effects of the killer brew.

Squarely blaming the BJP-led Government for the tragedy, Opposition Congress asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to step down owning moral responsibility and demanded a CBI inquiry into it.

So far seven persons have been arrested in the case and eight police and four excise officials suspended. All of those arrested are in police custody.

Stepping up the heat, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said, "Excise Minister should take responsibility of this tragedy and quit. Since the Home Department is with the Chief Minister he should also resign."

Lamenting that the state does not have a full-fledged Home Minister, he said when the death toll is increasing on hourly basis the Chief Minister was busy doing Yoga.
"Since the onus for the death of over 100 people lay at the Chief Minister's door step, he should resign," he said.

He said when a similar tragedy happened in Vikhroli in 2004, claming over 87 lives, the then Congress-NCP Government had suspended the local DCP and raided and shut illegal distillaries across Mumbai. After the BJP-led Government came to power, the suprious liquor trade had flourished and now there are about 1000 hooch dens, he alleged.

Rattled by the tragedy that occurred at the Laxmi Nagar slum in suburban Malwani on Wednesday night, Excise Minister Eknath Khadse said the Government would bring in a harsher law to deal with the menace with provisions to ensure that those arrested for distilling and selling illicit liquor would not get bail for at least for one year after their arrest.

"Since January this year, 117 raids have been conducted in Malad and nearby areas in suburban Mumbai.Several people have been arrested. But, they have been let off on bail of Rs 2,000. The need of the hour is to make stringent laws," he said.

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly , Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who visited the kin of the victims,demanded resignation of Khadse.

"The loss of lives is also due to the negligence of the Shatabdi Hospital run by the municipal corporation," and wanted the hospital authorities and health officer of the ward be booked for homicide.

Meanwhile, even four days after the first victim died in the hooch tragedy, the Mumbai police is still struggling to nail down the kingpin of the incident.

Police produced Mamta Rathod (30) and Agnes Gracy alias Aunty (50), who were arrested yesterday, in court today and they were remanded in police custody, taking the total number of arrests so far to seven in connection.

Police have said that these two women accused were "involved" in bootlegging.
However, one of the prime suspect Mainka Bai is on the run.

"Yes, we have been unable to reach upto the mastermind but the way our investigation progressing, all I can say is that we would soon be able to assemble the missing links into the case," said Dhananjay Kulkarni, spokesperson of Mumbai Police.

He said, "We are ascertaining where and when the hooch was brewed, when was it transported into Mumbai and who are the other accused involved into this business so far."

Kulkarni further said that from the beginning of this year, Mumbai Police has registered 233 cases relating to sale of illicit liquor and most of the cases were traced to the North region only, where this tragedy has taken place.

Nirupam further said the people who consumed the spurious liquor could have been saved but for the negligence of the Shatabdi hospital.

"There is no detoxification facility or dialysis facility at the hospital. Just suspending senior police inspector and excise officials will not do. Deputy Commissioner of Police of North Mumbai should also be sacked. Provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) should be invoked against them," he said.

He also demanded a thorough probe into how the spurious liquor business had revived in the last few months and said a high level CBI inquiry should be ordered to bust the involvement of inter state and inter district mafia.

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