Ahmedabad: As many as 14 victims of the Gujarat hooch tragedy undergoing treatment at the Bhavnagar Civil Hospital have fled leaving their treatment halfway, even as the death toll in the illicit liquor nightmare rose to 40 by Wednesday with 73 people still hospitalised at government facilities in Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad.
The Bhavnagar hospital authorities have sought help from the Botad police to trace the 14 patients who ran away without completing their medical treatment.
Medical Superintendent of Bhavnagar civil hospital Dr Jayesh Brahmbhatt told reporters that, “During the last 24 hours since Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon 13 to 14 patients have escaped. We have shared the list of the patients with the police with a request to them to somehow find them and return them to the hospital to complete their treatment.”
The hospital Superintendent guessed that the patients could have felt recovered or better and might have just left without waiting to be officially discharged from the hospital.
Congress spokesperson Manhar Patel, who is from Botad, alleged speaking to mediapersons that the patients could not have escaped without the help of the hospital staff and security personnel. He said, “It is a government hospital with 24X7 private security guards posted at all important entry and exit gates. And this private agency is hired by the hospital's Rogi Kalyan Samiti."
Patel demanded that the police should not only trace the patients and bring them back to the hospital but also investigate who all from the hospital and security staff helped them run away.
The death toll has reached 40 and Bhavnagar sources claimed it could still go up given that nearly 75 patients are still in the hospitals. There were 88 patients under treatment in Bhavnagar alone for the sickness caused by the illicit country liquor, of whom 14 died between Tuesday night and early morning with seven of them being critical.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi told reporters at Gandhinagar on Wednesday that the police investigation in the hooch tragedy was in the full swing and a chargesheet in the case would be filed in the next 10 days. He said 14 people had already been arrested for the hooch tragedy.
Earlier in the day, Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil and AAP MP Sanjay Singh gave suspension of business notice in Rajya Sabha over the deaths due to spurious liquor in Gujarat, while a delegation led by Gujarat Congress President Jagdish Thakor and Leader of Opposition Sukhram Rathwa called on Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat at Raj Bhawan.
And in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers staged a protest outside the party headquarters over the Gujarat hooch tragedy. Raising slogans, they headed towards the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg. During the protest, some AAP workers led by MLA Rituraj Jha climbed atop a vehicle of the Delhi Police. They were detained and whisked away by the police.
Primary investigations have revealed some small-time bootleggers of different villages of Botad district had made spurious liquor or hooch by mixing water with methyl alcohol or methanol and sold it to villagers for Rs 20 per pouch, police said.
Out of the deceased, 31 belonged to different villages in Botad and nine were natives of neighbouring Dhandhuka taluka in Ahmedabad district, the official of Botad police control room said.
The Botad and Ahmedabad police on Tuesday registered three First Information Reports (FIRs) against nearly 20 culprits under Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (murder), 328 (causing hurt by poison) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and have arrested 15.
The liquor tragedy came 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 health condition started deteriorating.
“Forensic analysis has established that the victims had consumed methyl alcohol. We have booked 14 persons on the charges of murder and other offences and already detained majority of the accused for further investigation," Bhatia told reporters in Gandhinagar.