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Hooch tragedy points to administrative failure

Hooch tragedy points to administrative failure

Transfers and suspensions bring little solace to victims’ families

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Last Updated : 21 June 2024, 23:46 IST
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The hooch tragedy in which 47 people died in Kallakurichi in north Tamil Nadu over the last two days is among the worst such tragedies in recent times.

There were two other illicit liquor disasters in the state in 2023 in which 17 people lost their lives. Last year’s tragedies took place after a gap of 15 years, during which no serious incidents occurred.

So it was believed that Tamil Nadu had addressed the menace of illicit brewing and consumption with some degree of success. The laws had been amended to bring the supply and distribution of methanol, the cause of death when illicit liquor is consumed, under control. But the deaths in Kallakurichi show that the problem persists, and it may not have been noticed because luckily there were no deaths. 

Every hooch tragedy results from administrative failure, and the district and state administrations must be held responsible for them.

Prohibition is extremely difficult to implement, but a safe and healthy liquor policy is not. In Tamil Nadu, liquor is sold through the retail outlets of the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Limited (Tasmac). When cheaper and stronger illicit liquor is sold, an alert police and administration are quick to sniff it out. The supply of methanol can also be tracked. Often, the nexus between brewers and bootleggers, and the police and other authorities, shields such crimes. There is also political patronage at the local level without which it is near impossible to carry out such nefarious activities. The district collector of Kallakurichi has been transferred and some police officials have been suspended or transferred. This amounts to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

The district administration and the police, especially its prohibition enforcement wing, should be faulted for their failure to check illegal brewing and the sale of hooch. There was a failure in monitoring the supply of methanol. Tasmac’s decision to increase the price of liquor also forced many people to go in for cheaper and unsafe options. Some who had a direct role in the sale of hooch have been arrested, but the M K Stalin government must ensure that everyone responsible for this tragedy is punished. Undoubtedly, the sale of illegal liquor is prevalent in several parts of the state. Steps should be taken to stop that. Hooch victims are usually from the weaker sections of society. Whole families have been orphaned in Kallakurichi, and no amount of solatium can compensate for the trauma and the loss of family members.

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