In one of the worst-ever hooch tragedies in West Bengal, 145 people, mostly labourers, rickshaw-pullers and hawkers, died and several still battling for life in three hospitals after consuming spurious liquor at Mograhat in South 24 Parganas district.
The victims fell ill after consuming spurious liquor from several illegal joints on Tuesday night.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the deaths occurred due to methyl alcohol toxicity which led to respiratory and cardiac failure.
Officials said that 103 deaths were reported in Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital, followed by M R Bangur (36) and National Medical College and Hospsital(4).
Condition of about 50 victims was critical in the three hospitals, doctors said adding the toll is likely to go up.
“Many are still battling for life in the three hospitals after consuming spurious liquor’,” the CMO(H) Shikha Adhikary said.
The issue figured in the state Assembly with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing a CID inquiry into the tragedy which took place less than a week after the major fire in AMRI which left 93 dead.
Police said that 10 arrests were made in connection with the hooch tragedy.
The chief minister said the owner of the liquor den Badshah Khokon, named in the FIR, was absconding.
She said that something toxic was mixed in the liquor, while police said that pesticide was mixed with methyl alcohol which proved fatal.
For the widow of Shankar Mahato, a mason, life has turned upside-down. Mahato was the main breadwinner for the family comprising three daughters and a son.
“How will I survive. Where will the money come from,” she lamented.
She said Mahato collapsed after telling her that he was unable to see anything and that his limbs were turning numb.He died on reach the hospital, she said.
Observing that trade in illicit liquor has been going on for a long time in the state and is a social problem, the chief minister said an all-party decision must be taken on the steps required to end the menace of illicit liquor.
Banerjee said the state government would help traders if they switched over to other businesses like setting up tea or fruit stalls.
A blame game began over the hooch tragedy with the ruling Trinamool Congress accusing the CPI(M) of “having a hand behind the incident”, and the Marxists throwing a challenge to the ruling party to prove the charge.
State’s Commerce and Industry minister Partha Chatterjee alleged that the CPI(M) leaders were behind the tragedy and that they had acted in a planned way.
Countering Chatterjee’s charge, leader of the opposition Suryakanata Mishra said, “I challenge him and the chief minister to prove the allegation and take action.”
“They are doing this to cover up their failure which will not be accepted by the people,” he said.
Senior CPI(M) leader and former minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said, “timely treatment could have saved many lives. Liquor joints were there for a long time”, he said, denying the charge that any CPI(M) leader was involved.
Meanwhile, some people sustained minor injuries at Diamond Harbour when a group attacked a CPI(M) procession taken out to blame the state government for the hooch tragedy.