Guwahati: The death toll in the Assam hooch tragedy reached 157 on Monday with more than 300 others still undergoing treatment in hospitals in the affected districts of Golaghat and Jorhat. So far, 22 people have been arrested in connection with the incident. Also Read - Bihar Polls: Rahul Gandhi Accuses PM Modi of Not Talking About Problems Like Unemployment Faced by Our Country
With death toll continuing to mount since Thursday night, the BJP government drew flak from the opposition Congress which accused it of being indifferent to the plight of victims and demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident saying “a tragedy of this magnitude has never taken place in Assam’s history”. Also Read - Bihar Phase 1 Polls Updates: 71 Assembly Seats Across State Record 53.11% Voter Turnout Till 6PM
Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya directed district officers to crack down on sale and production of illicit liquor. The state government has also banned the sale of ‘lali gur’ or red molasses used in production of the liquor, an official said. Also Read - Vaccine, Jobs And Unemployment Allowance: High Political Drama in Bihar as Parties Wage Manifesto War Ahead of Polls
Altogether, 22 people have been arrested in connection with the incident from the two districts, police said.
Several organisations, including the Asam Chah Mazdoor Union, took out a march in the tea belt of Golaghat on Monday to protest against the tragedy, and burnt effigies of Suklabaidya and Tea Tribe Welfare Minister Pallab Lochan Das.
A large number of labourers of two tea estates of Golaghat and Jorhat districts had fallen ill after drinking spurious liquor Thursday night. Twelve of them had died the same night.
At Jorhat Medical College Hospital, at least 78 persons died while undergoing treatment and 20 of them were brought dead. Currently, over 250 people are being treated there, they said.
In Golaghat, 55 people have died so far, while 57 are undergoing treatment at a civil hospital.
Meanwhile, condemning the incident, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi demanded a CBI inquiry into the episode, saying that “a tragedy of this magnitude has never taken place in Assam’s history”.
“The state government should have claimed responsibility for the deaths and called for an all-party meeting to discuss the issue,” he added.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had ordered an inquiry into the incident by Upper Assam Division Commissioner Julie Sonowal on Friday.
The CM, along with Health Minister Himanta Sarma, has also reviewed the condition of victims undergoing treatment at the Jorhat hospital.
On Saturday, he announced a monetary compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to those who fell ill.
This is the second major hooch tragedy in the country within a fortnight. At least 70 people had died in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after drinking spurious liquor earlier this month.