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Punjab Hooch tragedy: Death toll rises to 21, mastermind hatched conspiracy inside Sangrur jail, opposition slams AAP government

The matter came to light on Wednesday (20th March) when four people lost their lives after consuming poisonous liquor.

The Punjab Police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Sangrur Hooch tragedy revealed that Methanol contents were found in the spurious liquor that killed 21 people in Punjab’s Sangrur. Methanol is a deadly chemical used in industrial products. 

As per reports, 11 people are still undergoing treatment at Patiala’s Rajindra Hospital and six at the Civil Hospital in Sangrur. The incident occurred in Gujran village located in Sunam tehsil in Sangrur district of Punjab.

The matter came to light on Wednesday (20th March) when four people lost their lives after consuming poisonous liquor.

The conspiracy was hatched inside Sangrur Jail: SIT Chief

On Saturday (23rd March), the head of SIT, ADGP Gurinder Dhillon addressed a press conference on the Sangrur spurious liquor case. He said that the accused obtained the chemical from a Noida-based factory.

According to reports, initial investigation has also revealed that the accused mastermind hatched a conspiracy to build a liquor factory from inside Sangrur jail and they reportedly watched YouTube videos for liquor preparation. It was reportedly the first consignment by the accused and they had intended to sell around 4000 bottles with the label ‘Shahi’, a desi liquor brand from Haryana. Instead of naming it after any desi Punjabi brand, the accused used the name of a brand from Haryana to mislead investigation in case of getting caught.  

Dhillon said that the accused Harmanpreet used to prepare spurious liquor at his house and sell it in liquor bottles, bearing the brand name “Shahi”, written in Hindi. He added that the accused were targeting labourers to sell the spurious liquor at half price. Both masterminds are history sheeters and came in contact with each other while lodged at Sangrur jail, the SIT Chief said.

8 arrested, Police seize material used for making spurious liquor

The SIT official informed that so far eight out of the 10 accused have been arrested in this case. The arrested accused include two masterminds — Gurlal Singh of Ubhawal village in Sangrur and Harmanpreet Singh of Taipur village in Patiala. The other accused have been identified as Manpreet Singh alias Mani and Sukhwinder Singh alias Sukhi, both residents of Gujjran village in Dirba; Soma Kaur, Rahul alias Sanju, and Pardeep Singh alias Babi, all residents of Chauwas in Cheema; Arshdeep Singh alias Arsh of Rogla village.

According to the Police, the accused persons had procured a total of 300 litres of methanol. Police have also recovered 200 litres of methanol, empty liquor bottles, bottle caps, and other equipment, used for manufacturing and labelling spurious liquor. The accused prepared brand labels using a printer at home and had purchased a bottle cap installation machine from Ludhiana.

The SIT chief added that three FIRs have been registered in this case at at Dirba, Sunam, and Cheema Police stations. Police have added Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to investigate the role of factories from where the methanol was procured.

The ADGP further stated that police have also invoked the stringent section, 61-A of the Excise Act in all three FIRs. Section 61-A is punishable with imprisonment for life/ the death penalty. The ADGP added that the police have papers regarding the procurement of this fatal chemical. 

Opposition slams AAP government, demands resignation of Excise Minister

Following the Sangrur Hooch tragedy, the opposition parties including BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) launched a scathing attack against the Aam Aadmi Party government in the state. 

Raising questions at the CM Bhagwant Mann, SAD asked why he has not sought the resignation of excise minister Harpal Cheema or ordered the registration of a murder case against the perpetrators yet.

On Saturday, Union Minister Anurag Thakur lambasted Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and AAP for failing to address the issue.

Highlighting that the incident occured in CM’s constituency, Thakur took a dig at the AAP government’s pledge to create a ‘Nasha Mukt’ Punjab. He also emphasised alleged links between AAP and liquor salesmen and middlemen in Delhi, leading to the proliferation of liquor shops across the state.

Thakur asked, “AAP came to power pledging to lead a campaign against narcotic substances. CM Bhagwant Mann lost his own Lok Sabha seat in by-elections. Yesterday, more than 20 people lost their lives due to spurious liquor. Imagine the situation in Punjab if this is the condition in the chief minister’s native place. What is the relationship of AAP with liquor salesmen and middlemen, leading to the proliferation of liquor shops in every area of the state?” 

However, the AAP government’s cabinet minister and Sunam MLA Aman Arora courted controversy while trying to absolve the state govt of any responsibility over the Sangrur incident. He said, “If a person had died consuming liquor purchased from a govt-authorised liquor shop, only then govt is responsible.”

Following mounting criticism, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann met with the families of the deceased in Sangrur on Sunday (24th March) to offer his condolences and assure action against the culprits, four days after the incident came to light.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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