Cops say bootleggers sold poisonous methanol mixed with water
Ahmedabad, July 26 (PTI): The death toll due to the consumption of spurious liquor in Gujarat’s Botad district has gone up to 28, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
A primary investigation has revealed that some small-time bootleggers including a woman from different villages in Botad had made the spurious liquor by mixing water with methyl alcohol (methanol), which is highly poisonous, and sold it to villagers for Rs 20 per pouch, as per a First Information Report (FIR) registered in the incident.
Blood samples of the deceased confirmed that they had consumed methanol, Gujarat director general of police Ashish Bhatia told reporters in Gandhinagar.
Three FIRs have been registered against 14 main culprits under Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (murder), 328 (causing hurt by poison) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and most of them have been detained, he said.
The matter had come to light early Monday morning when some people living in Rojid village in Botad and other surrounding villages were referred to Government Hospitals in Barvala area and Botad towns after their condition started deteriorating.
Twenty eight people have so far died after consuming the spurious liquor. Of them, 22 belonged to various villages in Botad district while six were from three villages in neighbouring Ahmedabad district, Bhatia said.
Besides, more than 45 people are currently admitted to hospitals in Bhavnagar, Botad and Ahmedabad, he said.
“A forensic analysis has established that the deceased consumed methyl alcohol. We have booked 14 people on charge of murder and other offences and already detained most of the accused for further investigation,” Bhatia said.
The Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the Ahmedabad crime branch have also joined the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat Home Department has formed a three member committee, headed by senior Indian Police Service officer Subhash Trivedi, to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident and submit a report within three days, a state government release said.
The other two members of the committee are Prohibition and Excise director M A Gandhi and Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory director H P Sanghvi.
Police investigation has so far revealed that a person named Jayesh aka Raju had stolen 600 litres of methyl alcohol from a godown in Ahmedabad where he worked as a manager and then sold it to his Botad-based cousin Sanjay for Rs 40,000 on July 25, Bhatia said.
“Despite knowing that it’s an industrial solvent, Sanjay sold the chemical to bootleggers from different villages of Botad. These bootleggers mixed water in the chemical and sold it to people as country-made liquor. This led to the death of 28 people,” the official said.
As per an FIR lodged at Barvala police station in Botad, bootleggers sold this chemical-laced hooch in pouches to several people on July 25 in Rojid, Ranpari, Chandarva, Devgana, Chokdi and some other villages in Botad district.
The deceased also included people from Dhandhuka taluka of neighbouring Ahmedabad district as they had come to Botad to consume liquor.
In Rojid village, the epicentre of the tragedy, a bootlegger named Gajuben Vaddariya told the police that she had purchased 20 litres of methanol for Rs 2,000 from one Pintu Devipujak and sold it to several people by mixing water in it for Rs 20 per pouch, the FIR said.
The FIR said as many as 10 people from Rojid village died after consuming the hooch on Monday.
Bhatia said blood samples of the deceased confirmed that they had consumed methanol.
“We have so far seized 460 litres of the chemical. Following a clampdown on manufacturers of illegal liquor, bootleggers decided to acquire this readymade chemical and sell it as country-made liquor by just mixing water in it,” he said.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is on a visit to Gujarat where the Assembly polls are due later this year, on Monday alleged that illegal liquor is being sold in large quantities in Gujarat where prohibition is in place.
He alleged that people selling illicit liquor are enjoying political protection and demanded a probe into the “trail” of money generated by selling booze.
Kejriwal on Tuesday said he will visit a hospital in Bhavnagar where some of those who consumed the spurious liquor were admitted.