Dehradun, Feb 12 (PTI) The hooch tragedy rocked the Uttarakhand Assembly for a second day on Tuesday, with the Congress staging a walkout over the government’s “insensitivity” even as the speaker announced that an in-house panel will be set up to probe the incident.

Over 70 people were killed in Uttarakhand and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh after consuming spurious liquor. At least 36 people died in Uttarakhand alone.

Opposition leaders rushed into the Well of the House and raised anti-government slogans. They also sought resignations of Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and Excise Minister Prakash Pant over the issue.

The Opposition also alleged that Rawat and his cabinet colleagues did not deem it important to visit the families of the victims, who were mostly Scheduled Caste labourers.

Leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh said the ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh announced by the state government for kin of the deceased was not enough.

“In some cases, poor women have lost both their husbands and sons and don’t know how to keep their hearths burning. They are in need of immediate financial help. If the ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh reaches them after the viscera report, wouldn’t it defeat the purpose?” she asked.

Senior Congress MLA Govind Singh Kunjwal criticised the state government for suspending only “small fries” in the excise department in the name of action.

Echoing similar sentiments, Ranikhet MLA Karan Mahra said senior excise officers had been allowed to go scot-free.

Mahra said a tragedy of this proportion could not have taken place without the involvement of the bigwigs and demanded Pant’s resignation on moral grounds.

Defending the government, Pant said as many as 17 excise department and police officials were suspended immediately after the incident.

“Showcause notices were also served to officials who could have been responsible for the incident and if their replies are not satisfactory, stern action will be taken against them as well. No one will be spared, I assure the House,” the excise minister said.

Collective effort is needed to uproot the social evil of alcoholism, Pant added.

He said a special investigation team (SIT), led by inspector general, Garhwal, had also been constituted to get to the root of the hooch deaths and to suggest measures to prevent a repeat of such incidents in future.

However, Pant’s reply failed to assuage the agitated Congress members, who had returned to their seats to hear him. They again rushed into the Well, reiterating the demand for the minister’s resignation.

Speaker Prem Chand Aggrawal intervened to announce that an in-house committee will be constituted to look into the incident and suggest long term measures to end illicit liquor trade. He said the members of the panel will be announced later.

Alleging that the government had done nothing to offer immediate help to the victims’ families, the Congress staged a walkout.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.