In the latest case of suspected hooch tragedy in Bihar, two men are suspected to have died and two more are suspected to have lost eyesight in Muzaffarpur district.
In recent years, Bihar has become infamous for deaths related to the consumption of spurious liquor. The manufacturing, sale, and consumption of alcohol has been prohibited in Bihar since 2016 when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar implemented the liquor ban.
Earlier in April, as many as 27 people had died in a hooch tragedy in East Champaran district. In December 2020, at least 39 people had died from spurious liquor in Saran district.
In the latest instance, Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Awadhesh Dixit told PTI that the incident was reported from the Qazi Mohammadpur police station limits of Muzaffarpur. The police have taken the wife and daughter of the accused liquor supplier in custody.
Dixit told PTI, "We received information that in the Pokharia Pir Mohalla, Umesh Sah (55) and Pappu Ram have died. Their family members said they returned home drunk three days ago, took ill and their condition continued to worsen despite medical treatment. Two others, Dharmendra Ram and Raju Ram, both residents of the same locality, reported loss of eyesight. Dharmendra Ram told the police that they had purchased liquor from Shivchandra Paswan, whose family is involved in the illegal business."
Dixit further said that "a search is on for Paswan while his wife and daughter have been detained for questioning".
The prohibition policy of Bihar has come under repeated criticism over a string of incidents where people have died after consuming spurious liquor.
In December 2022, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was widely criticised for an insensitive remark after several deaths were reported after the consumption of spurious liquor in Saran district. He had said that if you would drink liquor, you would naturally die.
"Those who will drink liquor will die. The example is in front of us. We should express grief over such cases and go to these areas and inform them...But some people still engage in wrongdoing. How many people are caught? I have told officials to not catch poor people. Catch the main people, those manufacturing liquor and doing business. For others, I am saying poor people should not engage in this. They should do something else. We are willing to give them Rs 1 lakh to set up their own work," said Nitish to journalists at the time.
At the time, CPI (ML)-Liberation, which supports the Nitish-led Grand Alliance government in Bihar, had criticised the government's reaction to the hooch tragedy and had called for compensation to the victims, which Nitish had repeatedly denied at the time. The party called for "not just compensation but rehabilitation (punarvaas) of families" which may have been in dire straits upon the death of a breadwinner in the hooch tragedy. In a statement, the CPI (ML)-Liberation said it will also hit the streets on Monday in protest against the "nexus between liquor mafia and the administrative machinery across the state".