Over 150 people, most of them tea garden workers, have died in one of the worst hooch tragedies in Assam. Over 90 are dead in Golaghat and the rest in Jorhat. The number of deaths is likely to go up district administrative officials have told NDTV.
Most of the victims are from Golaghat's Khumtai region. Local BJP lawmaker from Khumtai, Mrinal Saikia told NDTV that 150 patients are being treated at the civil hospital in the district and the more critical ones have been sent to Jorhat Medical College. The rush of new patients, have gone down since yesterday afternoon, said senior district administration officer, Dhiren Hazarika.
"It is not easy to treat methyl alcohol poisoning once it enters the blood stream. Doctors said it gives only half an hour window to administer the antidote to save the patient," said Mr Saikia. Most of the people who suffered illicit liquor poisoning have been treated but many couldn't be saved, he added.
Over 25 people have been arrested, 100 cases registered and 15,000 litres of spurious liquor have been seized in a massive statewide crackdown by the excise department officials. On being questioned why the Assam government woke up after the tragedy struck; Mr Saikia alleged that many excise department officials are hand in glove with the illicit liquor traders and hence it's tough to stop hooch sale in the state.
There is widespread public anger and civil society groups, with the victims' families today took to the streets across Assam, demanding strict action against those behind selling and making illicit liquor.
Tragedy struck Thursday night in the tea gardens of Golaghat and Jorhat after a large number of people consumed spurious liquor in Salmora tea estate and in two villages of Jorhat. Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal, on Sunday, announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of those who died and Rs 50,000 for those being treated in hospitals.