The Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) government in Bihar and the opposition BJP on Friday crossed swords over reports that NHRC has indicted the state for the hooch tragedy in Saran district last year, which claimed close to 40 lives.
According to reports in a section of the media, the NHRC, which took suo motu cognisance of the deaths caused by drinking spurious liquor in the dry state, has concluded that the total number of people who died exceeded 70, far more than the 38 casualties confirmed officially.
"Taking note of the reports in the media, I had raised the matter inside the House,” BJP MLC Sanjay Mayukh told reporters outside the legislative council.
“We demand a reply from the government, which stands accused of concealing true figures. It has been said that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has accused the administration of forcing bereaved family members to go for cremation without reporting the deaths,” he alleged.
However, when Ashok Choudhary, a key minister in Bihar, who is also a member of the legislative council, was asked about the same, he replied, "I am not aware of any such NHRC report".
The hooch tragedy, the biggest in the history of the state since it went dry seven years ago, took place in December last year.
"Even if there is such a report, I would like to know from which source the NHRC has collected its information. That the administration tried to scale down death figures does not hold water.
"We have a policy in place whereby family members of those who die of unnatural causes get ex gratia. The amount is directly remitted into bank accounts. We would like to know if the NHRC has arrived at its conclusion on the basis of hearsay,” Choudhary said.
BJP leaders had claimed that the number of people who died after consuming spurious liquor in Saran was "more than 100", though the state government asserted the final death toll was 38.