Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday night announced a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the deaths of over 70 people due to consumption of spurious liquor in the state. An official spokesperson said that the SIT has been constituted to make an in-depth enquiry into the tragedy that struck Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts in the state last week.
The five-member SIT, constituted on the directives of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, is headed by ADG (Railways) Sanjay Singhal. It has been specifically asked to find out whether there was any conspiracy angle and also to review past incidents, and submit its report within 10 days, suggesting measures to stop recurrence of such incidents.
Meanwhile, a home department official said that the government has decided to suspend the circle officers in both the districts where the tragedy took place. The circle officer of Deoband in Saharanpur district, Siddharth, and the circle officer of Tamkuhi Raj in Kushinagar district, Ramkrishna Tiwari, have been placed under immediate suspension, he said.
The latest action of the government came against the backdrop of a blame game over the twin incidents with Adityanath referring to the involvement of the Samajwadi Party in “such mischievous acts” in the past and BSP supremo Mayawati seeking a CBI probe into the matter which she said was a result of “sheer callousness” of the BJP government.
Adityanath, from his home turf Gorakhpur, warned of stern action against all those found involved in illicit liquor trade even if they were associated with any political party. “In the past too, such type of mischievous acts by SP leaders had come to fore. In Azamgarh, Hardoi, Kanpur and Barabanki, SP leaders were found to be involved in past hooch tragedies. We can’t deny conspiracy this time too,” Yogi told reporters Saturday night.
Hitting back, Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government on Sunday over the deaths in the tragedy. He said, “The opposition has been notifying the government about such activities, but they did not act as some of its leaders are involved. The truth is that without the backing of the government, such businesses cannot be carried out. The BJP should accept the fact that they cannot run the state.” The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the SP’s alliance partner for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, also blamed the BJP governments in UP and Uttarakhand for the deaths.
BSP chief Mayawati in a statement said that both the state governments were “callous” in their approach towards banning sale of spurious liquor and demanded a CBI probe into the tragedy. She said till the CBI probe was complete, excise ministers of both the states should be asked to step down to ensure free and fair inquiry.
Mayawati said bootleggers who are running a parallel administration right under the nose of the authorities and selling spurious liquor. Over 70 people have died in the hooch tragedy that hit two adjoining districts in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, officials said.
Thirty-six people died in Balupur and its neighbouring villages in Haridwar district in Uttarakhand and as many people had died in UP’s Saharanpur district. In an unrelated incident, nine people have died over the week in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district, allegedly after drinking spurious liquor.
Adityanath said he had spoken to his Uttarakhand counterpart Trivendra Singh Rawat and asked him to share details as the spurious liquor was served to the natives of Uttar Pradesh in a Haridwar village. “A racket of spurious liquor was being operated there in Uttarakhand. Therefore, I have spoken to the CM seeking details,” Adityanath said.
He said action has been taken against the excise officer, the excise inspector, SHOs and beat constables in Saharanpur and Kushinagar districts of UP. Taking serious note of the deaths due to spurious liquor in Kushinagar as well as Saharanpur districts, the state government has ordered a 15-day joint drive by excise and police officials against those involved. The UP government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and help of Rs 50,000 each for those undergoing treatment in hospitals.