Hooch tragedy: Death toll reaches 116, Adityanath speaks of 'conspiracy'
Just as the death toll in hooch tragedy touched 116 on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath smelled a political conspiracy. Speaking to reporters on Saturday night in his turf Gorakhpur, Adityanath claimed Samajwadi Party leaders have been 'involved in such acts' in the past. Meanwhile, his government formed an SIT to investigate the case last night. Here are the details.
The incident got attention last week after natives of Umahi, Salempur, and Gaganledi villages in Saharanpur district went to Haridwar for a post-death ritual. On Thursday, they consumed the illicit liquor and brought back a few packets with them. Those who drank alcohol started vomiting on Friday morning and were rushed to hospitals. At the time of press, 70 deaths were reported from Saharanpur.
While Saharanpur was worst affected by the tragedy, deaths were also reported from Kushinagar with 10 people dying in this Eastern UP town. In Uttarakhand, 36 people lost their lives. Notably, 12 in Uttarakhand and 4 in UP are said to be critical.
With the grieving families demanding strict action against the perpetrators, police in both states swung to action. Uttarakhand police arrested two accused, identified as Fakira and Sonu, recently. The father-son duo told police they purchased the alcohol from Uttar Pradesh and sold it in villages of Haridwar district. They also claimed the liquor didn't have its usual color and smelled of diesel.
Separately, in UP, police came down heavily on illegal alcohol trade. The police arrested 215 people and filed cases against 297 others. In raids carried out in different parts of the state, 9,269 liters of moonshine was seized. Meanwhile, Siddharth and Ramkrishna Tiwari, circle officers of Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts were suspended. Adityanath also announced ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh for the kin of deceased.
The tragedy took a political turn when the opposition slammed the BJP, which is the ruling party in both the states. BSP Chief Mayawati demanded a CBI probe and said excise ministers of both the states should step down. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress in-charge for Eastern UP, also demanded punishment against the guilty. Facing pressure from all sides, Adityanath hinted at SP's 'involvement'.
"In the past too, such type of mischievous acts by SP leaders had come to fore. In Azamgarh, Hardoi, Kanpur and Barabanki, SP leaders were found to be involved in past hooch tragedies. We can't deny conspiracy this time too," Adityanath said on Saturday.
Not being the one to lie low, SP President Akhilesh Yadav shot back at Adityanath over his 'conspiracy claims'. He said, "The opposition has been notifying the government about such activities, but they did not act as some of its leaders are involved." Yadav also claimed such businesses can't flourish without the government's support. He said BJP should accept they can't govern UP.
Notably, the SIT constituted by the UP government has been specifically asked to find out if the tragedy stemmed from any conspiracy. The five-member SIT, headed by ADG (Railways) Sanjay Singhal, has been asked to submit its report in ten days. The probe team has also been directed to suggest measures to stop recurrence of such incidents, said an official spokesperson.