With over 70 people dying in three hospitals after consuming toxic liquor, the death toll in the hooch tragedy in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district today climbed to 131 as police arrested seven persons and the government ordered a CID inquiry.
Authorities fear that the toll would rise further as at least 50 people are in a critical state after consuming the spurious liquor yesterday.
"The hooch toll has risen to 131 and over 100 are still in three different hospitals, many of whom are still battling for life," South 24-Parganas district Chief Medical Officer (Health) Shikha Adhikari told reporters at Diamond Harbour.
The CMO(H) said that condition of at least 50 was still critical. She said that of 327 victims admitted to Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital, 36 were declared brought dead, 70 later died and 56 were referred to state-run M R Bangur hospital in Kolkata.
Nineteen of the 56 victims died in M R Bangur hospital while six died in National Medical College and Hospital, she said.
The victims were mostly labourers, rickshaw-pullers and hawkers. They fell ill hours after consuming illicit liquor from different joints around Sangrampur, near here, since yesterday morning.
"Many are still battling for life in the three hospitals after consuming spurious liquor'," the CMO(H) said.
Announcing a CID inquiry into the hooch tragedy in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said seven persons had been arrested on the basis of preliminary administrative enquiry into the incident.
The chief minister said something toxic was mixed in the liquor and the owner of the liquor den Badshah Khokon, named in the FIR, was absconding.
Observing that trade in illicit liquor has been going on for a long time in the state and it 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.
Investigation into the incident had been handed over to the CID, the chief minister said, adding that something toxic was mixed in the liquor.
She said trade in illicit liquor has been going on for a long time in the state and it is a social problem.
The chief minister said that the state government would help the traders if they switched over to other businesses like setting up tea or fruit stalls.
Banerjee said an all-party decision must be taken on the steps required to end the menace of illicit liquor.
She said the government could have legalised the business and earned revenue for the cash-strapped exchequer, but would not do it.
"Character cannot be bought with money," she said.
The chief minister suggested that the all-party meeting be held on December 19 so that she could be present. Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay agreed to the suggestion and fixed the all-party meeting on that date.
The state government has already announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each to the families of the deceased.
Union minister of state for Information and broadcasting C M Jatua, who visited the affected in hospitals, said that mostly those who had consumed liquor in large quantity, had died.
Forty-six persons died after consuming illicit liquor at Gardenreach in 2008, while killer hooch claimed 28 lives at Kidderpore in 2009.