Mumbai hooch death toll rises to 87; excise, police officials suspended

The toll in the Mumbai hooch tragedy - the second worst among such incidents in 11 years in Maharashtra - shot up to 87 as the state government on Saturday cracked down by suspending four excise department officials. At least 20 people have been arrested while seven police officials have also been suspended

Deputy Commissioner of Police and spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said that so far 87 deaths have been recorded, while 34 people were undergoing treatment in eight government and private hospitals.


Wailing family members of illicit liquor victims at a slum area of Malwani, Malad on Thursday. Pic/ PTI

Police have so far arrested around 20 people in connection with the incident. These include 15 arrests by Mumbai police and five by the crime branch. The arrested people have been sent to police custody till June 26.

The crime branch, which is probing the incident, has launched a manhunt across Mumbai and its surroundings for at least four other bootleggers, said to be the kingpins of the illicit liquor trade.

The excise department officials suspended are Rajendra Salunkhe, Jagdish Deshmukh, Varsha Vengulkar and Dhanaji Dalvi.

Officials said they could also face a departmental probe for failing to detect the illegal bootlegging activities in their jurisdiction.

On Friday, Senior Police Inspector Prakash S. Patil of Malwani and seven others were placed under suspension.

Meanwhile, as the toll kept mounting, Mumbai police launched a house-to-house search in the Laxmi Nagar slum and other areas to ascertain if anybody had visited or bought liquor from there and consumed it.

At least eight such people, unaware of the risk they faced, were detected on Saturday and taken to hospitals for treatment.

The victims, from very poor backgrounds, mostly living in the Laxmi Nagar slum and employed as low paid drivers, daily labourers etc., had consumed the cheap country liquor at a bar in Rathodi village in Malwani area on Wednesday night.

Criticising the BJP-Shiv Sena government, Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan said the Malwani incident was an outcome of "blessings" to the mafia by those in power.

"Under the BJP rule, the mafia and criminals are getting protection. Merely suspending a few police or excise officials does not absolve the state government of the moral responsibility," Chavan said.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria has asked for a report on the incident from the local deputy commissioner of police (DCP) and assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and ordered that the illicit liquor trade must be completely stopped.

This was the second biggest illicit hooch tragedy to hit the state since December 23, 2004, when such liquor claimed 87 lives in two incidents in Mumbai.

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