Mumbai: Hooch horror in Malwani; toll rises to 41

Deaths after consuming spurious liquor blows lid off an illegal hooch racket; Crime Branch has arrested 15-odd accused and will launch inquiry against suspect cops

An illicit alcohol racket was uncovered in Malwani, after at least 15 people died from consuming spurious liquor on Wednesday.

The toll in the illicit liquor tragedy in a suburban bar in Mumbai shot up to 41 on Friday with 21 more people succumbing to the poisonous brew, a top police officer said here.

"The number of deaths is now 41. Another 25 victims are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals. Medical condition of at least 12 is critical," police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said.

He also said the police have arrested three persons in this regard and booked them under sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, etc. with intent to commit an offence) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

The accused have been identified as Raju Hanmanta Pascar (50), Donald Robert Patel (47) and Gautam Harte (30). Kulkarni, however, did not give any details on the course of investigation, saying that Crime Branch is handling the case.

Also read: Malwani SPI knew about hooch racket, allege cops

Malwani hooch racketFamilies mourn the deceased victims at Bhagwati Hospital. They alleged that they had complained about the hooch racket to the police several times but no action was taken

Late on Wednesday night, several residents of the Ambujwadi slums in Malwani were rushed to the hospital after they complained of uneasiness, and pain in the chest and stomach. Many complained they were unable to see properly and were suffering breathing problems as well.

The serious cases were sent to various private and civic-run hospitals in the vicinity, such as Prime, Suvarna, Shatabdi, Sion hospitals, etc. According to Dr Owais Shaikh from Prime Hospital -- where six of the patients were admitted — the victims had probably consumed hooch laced with methanol, a kind of alcohol that is highly toxic and unfit for consumption.  The police are yet to confirm how many victims took ill after drinking the hooch or what it had been contaminated with. At the time of going to press, Additional Commissioner of Police (Western zone) Fateh Singh Patil confirmed that 15 victims had died, while another 10-odd were under treatment.

Malwani hooch racket
Police officials raided the Laxmi Nagar chawl in Malwani, where they found samples of the hooch being sold by the accused.  Pics/ Nimesh Dave and Atul Kamble

“So far we have found 24 people who drank this toxic alcohol but we are not sure about what was mixed in it. We are recording all the victims’ statements and searching for other victims in different hospitals in the area,” said Crime Branch ACP Sunil Deshmukh.

The case was handed over to the Crime Branch by Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, after which 15-odd accused were detained, including the alleged kingpin who made and supplied the moonshine, one Raju.

The kin of the deceased said that Raju has long been illegally distilling and selling hooch in the area, and even though locals had complained to the police about it, o action was take against him. In light of these allegations, the Crime Branch will also launch an inquiry against the Malwani police to find out whether the cops were working hand-in-glove with Raju, said sources, adding that the Crime Branch had also raided several places in the locality and recovered a few samples of alcohol.

Playing the victim?
According to police sources, the prime accused, Raju, claimed he knew nothing about the contamination in the alcohol. He said he had been selling hooch for years without any incident and did not know what was mixed in this batch. The source also added that Raju was commonly known as Raju ‘Langda’, in reference to his lame leg, which he often used to gain sympathy with the police and locals.

List of deceased
>> Mahabub Shaikh (43)
>> Dinesh Kanojiya (40)
>> Dattatray Ghamare (53)
>> Kanhaiya Harijan (40)
>> Rohit Bhalerao (24)
>> Laxman Yemapure (40)
>> Ashok Khemadi (25)
>> Ramtekar Ramesh (40)
>> Satavan Mhatre (40)
>> Vijay Ravi Gajala (27)
>> Pramod Chavan (43)
>> David Chettiar
>> Kisan Sonavane
>> Unidentified (2 victims)

Voices
Kamlesh Kanojia, victim’s brother
I drink occasionally, but my brother Dinesh, who died, would drink regularly. Dinesh forced me to drink but while I drank a little, he consumed a large amount of the booze. Late at night, my stomach began to hurt, and my brother also complained about pain. Both of us began vomiting and we were taken to the hospital, but I lost my brother there.

Tayra Khan, victim’s wife
My husband, Mehboob was admitted to the hospital at 6 am on Thursday, after he complained of vomiting and pain in the stomach. He died three hours later, leaving me and my three little children alone.

Fulchand Yadav, victim’s friend
My best friend Kanhaiya Harijan and I belong to Uttar Pradesh. Both of us lived at the Malwani chawl, and he would drink every day. Alcohol killed my best friend.

Charles Chettiar, victim’s son
My father (Paul Chettiar) was bathing in the morning when he started feeling dizzy and had breathing problems. We took him to Prime Hospital and after some time, we saw more cases coming in there. We shifted him to KEM, where his dialysis is going on. His condition is still serious.

- With inputs from agencies

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