25 Arrested as Death Toll in Punjab Hooch Tragedy Rises to 86; CM Suspends 7 Excise Officials, 6 Cops

The death toll in the Punjab spurious liquor tragedy rose to 86 on Saturday even as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh suspended seven excise officials and six policemen, officials said. The government also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for each of the families of the deceased, they said.

Tarn Taran alone accounted for 63 deaths, followed by 12 in Amritsar and 11 in Gurdaspur's Batala. Till Friday night, the state had reported 39 deaths in the tragedy unfolding since Wednesday night.

According to an official statement, Singh ordered the suspension of seven excise officials and six policemen. Among the suspended officials are two deputy superintendents of police and four station house officers.

Strict action will be taken against any public servant or others found complicit in the case, said Singh, describing the police and excise department failure to check the manufacturing and sale of spurious liquor as shameful. "Nobody will be allowed to get away with feeding poison to our people," he added.

The Punjab Police on Saturday arrested 17 more people in a massive crackdown spanning more than 100 raids in the three affected districts of Amritsar Rural, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran, along with several other places in and around Rajpura and Shambhu border. The total number of arrests in the case has gone up to 25.

A mafia mastermind, a woman kingpin, a transport owner, a wanted criminal and owners and managers of various dhabas from where the illicit liquor was being supplied are among the arrested accused, said DGP Dinkar Gupta.

The raiding parties seized large quantities of 'Lahan' from various villages and dhabas in the region around Shambhu border, Rajpura and Patiala, he said, adding the raids had exposed a massive racket in illicit liquor. The dhabas have been sealed.

As much as 750 litres of 'Lahan' had been seized from village Baghaura from where two persons had been arrested while another had been identified as a culprit.

A senior police official said families of several victims were not coming forward to record their statements but had been persuaded them to do so.

"A majority of the families were not coming forward and did not want any action. Some of them are not even getting the post-mortem done," said a police official.

Meanwhile, Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ishfaq said some families have refused to accept that their kin died after consuming spurious liquor.

"The wards of some of those who died are not accepting that they died because of spurious liquor. They are saying their family member died of heart attack," said the DC.

Tarn Taran DC Kulwant Singh said some families had even cremated the bodies without informing police.