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6 Assam hooch survivors left blind, 34 partially blind

Death toll so far is 157, but situation improving and doctors are monitoring those with eye trouble

Umanand Jaiswal Jorhat Published 27.02.19, 07:07 PM
Left activists protest in Guwahati on Wednesday against the hooch tragedy

Left activists protest in Guwahati on Wednesday against the hooch tragedy Picture by UB Photos

The Assam hooch tragedy has left six of the survivors “permanently blind and 34 others partially”, according to Anup Barman, director, medical education.

The official said the affected are undergoing treatment at Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH).


There is, however, no such case at the Golaghat civil hospital as it referred all the critical cases to JMCH.

“Loss of eyesight and weakness of nerves is quite common in people affected after consumption of spurious liquor. All the affected had consumed hooch. We are still trying our best and eye specialists are attending to them,” Barman said.

The hooch tragedy, which hit Halmira tea estate in Golaghat district on February 21 and Borholla tea estate in neighbouring Jorhat district the next day, has claimed 157 lives but the situation was “gradually improving”.

A doctor at JMCH said the survivors whose eyesight has been affected will be under observation of experts for “a week to 10 days” to see if there was “any revival”.

All those having eyesight problems are being administered vitamin doses and those having a chance at recovery will be referred for advanced treatment.

“There is an outside chance for the partially affected to recover but let us wait for what our eye specialists have to suggest. We will do whatever is required,” Barman said.

Abhiram Khesh, 45, from Halmira tea estate, who lost his eyesight, said he was admitted on February 22. Family members said they were hopeful that he would regain his eyesight.

So far, 79 of the affected people died at JMCH while 56 lost their lives at the Golaghat civil hospital. The number of affected patients has come down since Tuesday. The JMCH had 98 indoor patients on Wednesday evening, down from 106 on Tuesday.

As many as 472 affected people were rushed to JMCH since Thursday, of whom 347 were admitted.

The worst seems to be over but there is a need to keep a “close watch” on the people who have been discharged because they are “habitual drinkers”, doctors said.

“There is no new admission. We have discharged quite a few of them till now. We are treating those with withdrawal symptoms but those who have been discharged need to be kept under observation at home because there is a chance they will resume drinking. A lot needs to be done in terms of awareness to prevent recurrence of such an incident,” a doctor said.

ACMS protest

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), the largest tea garden workers’ union, on Wednesday organised protests in all the tea gardens of the Brahmaputra Valley to demand the complete ban of illicit liquor in the garden areas.

ACMS general secretary Rupesh Gowala said, “We have organised the protests to demand a complete ban on hooch (sulai) in the gardens and a high-level judicial probe into the incident.”

He said they demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the deceased and advanced treatment for the affected, among others.

At least 42 people have been arrested in connection with the incidents.

Dispur has announced ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those undergoing treatment.

Mass awareness programmes are being organised by the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association and ACMS in all the tea gardens.

Additional reporting by Avik Chakraborty in Dibrugarh

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