Ujjain hooch tragedy toll rises to 11 after 4 more labourers die

The death toll in the hooch tragedy in Ujjain rose to 11 after four more labourers were found dead on Thursday morning, the Madhya Pradesh police said.

Police have arrested 10 people while authorities suspended four policemen including a police station in-charge, a sub-inspector and two constables, officials said.

The state government ordered an investigation by a special investigation team (SIT) into the tragedy after instructions from chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, according to an official communique.

Those suspended policemen include Kharakuan police station in charge ML Meena and sub-inspector Niranjan Sharma.

Seven people, most of them labourers, were found dead in different localities of Ujjain on Wednesday. At least six of them had drunk an intoxicant called potali, Ujjain’s city superintendent of police (CSP), Rajnish Kashyap said.

On Wednesday morning, two labourers were found dead in Kharakuan police circle while two others died during treatment in the district hospital in the evening, police said.

The two who died in the hospital told the police that they had purchased ‘potali’ (also known as ginger liquor in the local areas) from a person in Kaharawadi area and that many of labourers used to frequent the locality for cheap liquor that cost between Rs 20 to Rs 50 per ‘potali’.

Two of the four dead found on Thursday morning were identified as Ratan Malviya, a resident of Jharda village in Ujjain and Rakesh, a resident of Harda district. Their bodies were found in Narsingh ghat and Dhaba Road areas, police said.

“All these 11 deaths are suspected to be linked to consumption of illicit hooch given the manner in which they have died. However, we have preserved viscera and a forensic examination of the same will establish the exact cause of death,” chief medical and health officer (CMHO), Ujjain Mahavir Khandelwal said.

“There is a possibility of more such deaths if there were more labourers who consumed the same hooch,” he said.

Confirming the arrest of 10 people in connection with sale of the illicit hooch Ujjain’s superintendent of police (SP), Manoj Singh said, “Some of the deaths are linked with consumption of ginger liquor. However, the exact cause of deaths can be known after post-mortem. Four police personnel have been suspended.”

Taking a dig at the BJP government, state Congress president Kamal Nath said, “There are complaints regarding liquor mafia’s operation in several districts of the state. They have no fear of the law as there is no Congress government now. We had launched an operation against all kinds of mafia across the state. The BJP government is engaged in bypolls and the law and order situation in the state is deteriorating by the day.”

The BJP said the government has acted promptly by forming an SIT.

“The state government has already ordered an SIT investigation and several accused have been arrested in a prompt action. The Congress should desist from playing politics on such a sensitive issue like deaths of labourers,” BJP leader Dr Hitesh Bajpai said.

(With input from Anand Nigam in Ujjain)

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