Hooch death toll in Bihar s West Champaran and Gopalganj districts risen to 33 .

staff Reporter

The Diwali-time hooch death toll in Bihar’s West Champaran and Gopalganj districts is said to have risen to 33 on Friday with at least 16 more people succumbing to spurious liquor, prompting the Opposition to deride the Nitish Kumar government for failing to enforce prohibition.

The number of the dead at Muhammadpur and neighbouring villages in Gopalganj shot up to 17 on Friday, administrative sources said.

The toll at Telhua village in West Champaran increased to 16, the sources said. Several others are battling for their lives in hospitals.

However, state government officials pegged the toll at 26, attributing other deaths to natural causes.

“Eleven people have died so far in the Muhammadpur hooch consumption incident. The other six deaths occurred in other villages in the area and our enquiries have revealed that they were due to natural causes like old age,” Gopalganj district magistrate Nawal Kishor Choudhary told The Telegraph.

Choudhary said he had asked all the police stations in the district to prepare a list of habitual drinkers and liquor traders. They will be asked to sign a bond of Rs 5 lakh, pledging that they will not indulge in such activities in future.

“Continuous raids are going on in the district. A large quantity of illicit liquor has been seized. We are also bolstering local intelligence gathering to ensure that such hooch incidents do not recur,” the Gopalganj DM said.

Locals at Telhua village in West Champaran blamed the police and the administration.

“We kept complaining to the Nautan station house officer (SHO) that liquor was being openly sold and consumed in our area, but he did not pay any heed,” Nirmala Devi of Telhua told reporters.

The station house officers of Muhammadpur and Nautan police station and the chowkidars of the villages where the hooch deaths took place have been suspended.

Asked by journalists about the hooch deaths, chief minister Nitish said: “I always say that if people consume bad things, this will happen. I will extensively review the issue after the festivals are over.”

Leader of the Opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the RJD, said: “Prohibition, due to the whim of somebody, is just on paper. Otherwise, there is full freedom (to drink).”

RJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha said: “Prohibition has failed and liquor syndicates are being run from police stations while top government officers are involved in it .

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