Bihar minister Samir Mahaseth on Wednesday urged people to “give up drinking” in the wake of the hooch tragedy in Chhapra where at least 17 people have died, and 20 others are hospitalised. The deaths have been blamed on spurious liquor. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mahaseth said, “it is best if you give up drinking”. “It is poison, not liquor, that is coming here. If we build strength via sports, we might tolerate it, but people will have to build that strength. Give it up! It is prohibited,” the minister can be heard telling reporters in a video shared by the news agency.
The tragedy took place in three villages in Chhapra area on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday. According to officials, the death toll in the incident is likely to rise as few people who have taken ill are in critical condition. As per the initial probe, the police are suspecting that the villagers might have purchased the liquor from a common shop in these adjoining areas.
State excise minister Sunil Kumar on Wednesday said that the matter is being probed and three people have been arrested so far. The police, however, have said that 30 people have been detained.
Notably, the sale and consumption of alcohol were completely banned in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar government in April 2016 after women’s groups had campaigned against poor workers splurging their incomes on drinking. Meanwhile, the hooch tragedy has also triggered a political slugfest in the state assembly where the BJP and the ruling ‘Mahagathbandhan’ traded charges.
As the BJP members entered the well of the House, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was seen loosing cool. “You are doing the wrong thing by opposing liquor prohibition. This cannot be tolerated. Just remove all these people,” he said, referring to the protesting members.