Spurious liquor, allegedly served at a mourning ceremony in Haridwar, has claimed 67 lives in two adjoining districts of Uttrakhand and Uttar Pradesh. At least 47 people have been reported dead in UP's Saharanpur and 20 others have been reported killed in hilly state's Haridwar. In another unrelated case, 11 have died after consuming illicit liquor in UP's Kushinagar, taking the total toll of the hooch tragedy to 78.
Most of the victims had consumed the liquor on Thursday evening at the `tehravin’, the 13th day of mourning after a relative’s death in Balupur village, the officials said earlier.
Twenty of the victims died in that village, close to Roorkee, according to the Uttarakhand police.
But at least one man also brought some liquor pouches from Balupur and might have sold them in Saharanpur, they said.
The Uttarakhand police too said that they had confirmation of only nine deaths in the UP's Saharanpur district from the liquor they consumed in Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand government has suspended 17 administration and police personnel and ordered a magisterial probe. In Uttar Pradesh, 10 policemen have been suspended.
"FIRs have been registered at 3 police stations. A crackdown was done by a joint team last night. At least 30 people were arrested, 25 FIRs registered. More than 400 litres illicit liquor was seized. The crackdown will continue until this is completely finished," Saharanpur SSP told ANI.
Saharanpur DM Alok Pandey said the victims from Nangal and adjoining villages in his district had gone to Balupur to take part in the ceremony on Thursday. They were served liquor there in the evening.
The victims started taking ill during the night, officials from both Uttarakhand and UP said.
Many of the Saharanpur victims could not be admitted to hospital because the area was lashed by rain and hailstorms, Pandey said.
In the morning, they were brought to the district medical hospital for treatment.
The deaths in the villages in Haridwar and Uttarakhand districts took place over the day on Friday, even as the authorities warned people not to consume any liquor they might be carrying from Balupur.
Pandey said a man identified as Pintu had brought 30 pouches of hooch from Balupur village, and may have sold them to others.
It is not immediately clear if some of the victims are among his customers.
One of pouches has been found and sent for forensic examination.
In an unrelated case, 11 people have died over the week in eastern UP’s Kushinagar district after drinking hooch, officials said.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered departmental action against district excise officers of Kushinagar and Saharanpur, the state government said. He also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs two lakh each to the relatives of those killed.
In Uttarakhand, 13 excise department personnel have been placed under suspension in connection with the hooch tragedy, Haridwar District Magistrate Deepak Rawat said.
Four Uttarakhand police personnel, including the Jhabrera station house officer, have been placed under suspension.
Both states announced drives to curb the sale spurious liquor.