Cuttack, June 9: The Odisha government is examining suggestions given by the Justice A.S. Naidu Commission in an interim report probing into the Cuttack-Khurda hooch tragedy that had claimed 41 lives.
The commission’s suggestions include a hike in value added tax (VAT) levied on medical preparations with high alcohol content. At present, 5 per cent VAT is levied on all medicinal preparations.
“The interim report is under active consideration of the state government. Views/ comments along with details of action taken have been solicited from departments concerned on the suggestions,” said excise secretary R.K. Sharma in an affidavit filed before the commission yesterday.
“After receiving detailed information/proposals from respective quarters, further steps will be taken,” said Sharma in his affidavit. He filed the affidavit following the commission’s direction.
Consumption of medicinal preparations with high alcohol or methyl alcohol content had allegedly led to the hooch tragedy that had claimed 41 lives on February 6 and 7.
The Odisha government had appointed the commission headed by retired high court judge Justice Naidu on February 10 to inquire into and report within three months the circumstances and sequence of events leading to the deaths.
The commission had submitted an interim report on May 6, while observing that it felt it was necessary to suggest precautionary measures for the safety of the poor people of the state and to avoid reoccurrence of such a tragedy.
The interim report suggested an increase in the value added tax on medicinal preparations containing high percentage of alcohol, action against illicit liquor distilleries, steps to control production, import of methyl alcohol and denature spirit, strengthening of enforcement squads of the drug controller and strict vigil on the alcohol supplied to and consumed by pharmaceutical units.
The commission had also suggested that the state government urge the Centre to restrict or regulate or prohibit drugs and medicinal preparations containing a high percentage of alcohol.
The commission had so far received 80 affidavits. Allegations of various kinds were made against 29 persons.
“After hearing counsels for all parties and going through records available till today, the commission is of the opinion that it could be necessary to inquire into the conduct of these persons,” the commission observed, while concluding its sixth sitting yesterday and issuing notices to the 29 persons giving them the opportunity to present their point of view.
The commission asked them to file their respective affidavits, by either appearing in person or through a lawyer by June 14. The next sitting of the commission has been fixed for June 24.
Among the 29 officers issued notices are Sudarshan Nayak (the then excise commissioner), Ananda Sankar Das (the then drugs controller), B.K. Sharma (the then commissioner of police, Cuttack-Bhubaneswar), Roopa Mishra (collector, Khurda), Girish S.N. (Cuttack collector), Laxmidhar Behera (Khurda excise superintendent) and Pradipta Patnaik (Cuttack excise superintendent), Praveen Kumar (Cuttack deputy commissioner of police), Nitinjeet Singh (Bhubaneswar deputy commissioner of police) and Ramakanta Rath and Manasi Rath (owners of Eastern India Pharmaceuticals Limited).