The Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday set up a five-member Special Investigation Team to look into the deaths caused by consumption of illicit liquor in the state, PTI reported. An official government spokesperson said the team will make a detailed inquiry in the incidents in Saharanpur and Kushinagar that took place last week.
The team, headed by Additional Director General of Police (Railways) Sanjay Singhal, has been directed to submit its report to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath within 10 days. It has been specifically asked to look into conspiracy angles, review past episodes, and suggest measures to stop such incidents from happening again.
Officials on Sunday said the toll has risen to 108, and 215 persons have been arrested so far, the Hindustan Times reported. A total of 73 deaths have been reported in Uttar Pradesh – 62 in Saharanpur and Meerut districts, and 11 in Kushinagar – and 35 people have been confirmed dead in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday said she hoped that the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in both the states would take action against the accused and offer compensation to the families of the victims. Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, meanwhile, had accused the BJP-led government in both states of negligence and collusion with corrupt officials and manufacturers.
The victims had reportedly consumed liquor on the evening of February 7 at a “terahvin” function, held to mark the 13th day of mourning to mark a death. Local residents had consumed liquor in Balupur village of Haridwar and brought back some of it to Saharanpur.
Meanwhile, the police on Sunday night arrested two people in connection with the sale of spurious liquor. The two were identified as Fakira and Sonu, father and son, who procured the liquor from Uttar Pradesh and sold it in Balupur and its neighbouring villages in Haridwar.
At a joint press conference, Haridwar Senior Superintendent of Police Janmejay Khanduri and Saharanpur Senior Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar informed reporters that the two are residents of Balupur village. Khanduri said the accused told interrogators that the liquor they had bought did not have its usual colour and smelt of diesel.
Family members of the victims took to the streets on Sunday and blocked roads in protest. The agitators also accused authorities of negligence in providing medical treatment to those who had fallen ill after drinking the spurious alcohol.