Police have arrested 20 people and seized huge quantities of spurious liquor from different villages in Bihar’s Motihari, even as the death toll in a suspected hooch case climbed to 14, officials said on Sunday.
The death count may increase further as the condition of five persons is reportedly to be critical, a senior police officer said.
A statement issued by the East Champaran district administration said 20 people, “involved in illegal trade of liquor”, had been arrested following searches in different localities of Motihari.
Around 85.5 litres of country-made liquor and a huge quantity of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) were recovered from their possession, it said.
“Police were informed that some villagers died after allegedly consuming spurious liquor in Turkauliya, Harsiddhi, Sugauli and Paharpur areas of the district on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday. Police teams were immediately sent to different hospitals in the city,” the statement said.
Excise department officials are also probing the incident.
Reacting to the suspected hooch case, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had on Saturday said: “I have been maintaining that liquor is bad and shouldn’t be consumed. I have asked officials to take strict action against those who violate prohibition laws.”
The government imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol on April 5, 2016. Scores of people died in the last major hooch case in the Saran district in December.
Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly, Vijay Kumar Sinha, accused the state administration of “protecting liquor mafias who are associated with the ruling JD(U) and the RJD”.