Rawat blames BJP govt for hooch deaths

The state health department has announced Rs 2 lakh for the families of each deceased, but the Congress demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh

By Avishek Sengupta in Guwahati
  • Published 26.02.19, 1:33 PM
  • Updated 26.02.19, 1:33 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Harish Rawat in Guwahati on Monday. (UB Photos)

The AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam, Harish Rawat, on Monday alleged that the incumbent BJP-led state government provides “political protection” to hooch rackets owing to which nearly 155 tea plantation workers died in Upper Assam after drinking the spurious liquor.

“The state government is providing political protection to the hooch rackets. That is why even after Congress workers in those areas had informed the government — much before the tragedy — about such rackets, the government did not take any substantial step to curb hooch menace in the tea garden areas,” Rawat told the media at Rajiv Bhawan here on Monday.

Demanding the Sarbananda Sonowal government’s clear stand on the hooch tragedy in Assam, Rawat said, “The government has failed to prevent deaths and react after the incident. Despite several demands, it did not sack excise minister Parimal Suklabaidya whose negligence is apparent. It has failed to provide proper treatment for those who were affected. It did not even provide adequate compensation to those who had died.”

The state health department has announced Rs 2 lakh for the families of each deceased, but the Congress demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh.

Rawat demanded a higher compensation for those who are undergoing treatment as most of them suffered permanent damages such as loss of sight or damage of liver and kidney. Rawat’s allegations came days after the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) adviser Akhil Gogoi had said a syndicate of makers of liquid jaggery or molasses — the basic ingredient for making sulai (hooch) — is active in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district and the district administration and police supported them.

He named two godowns — one in Ranganadi owned by Lalchand Garewal besides Subhash Sahu and another in Merapani, owned by Anil Gupta and Pradeep Gupta — were used to store molasses without proper licences.

Akhil said in April last year, people had complained about this to the deputy commissioner’s office .

The Guptas were detained by the police and their godowns sealed.

In Doomdooma, the state general secretary of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), Rupesh Gowala, on Monday alleged that the enforcement agencies collect “hafta” (illegal tax) or protection money from the illegal liquor sellers in return for turning a blind eye and demanded Suklabaidya’s resignation on moral grounds.

Gowala was visiting the hooch victims and their families in Golaghat and Jorhat districts.

“I learnt from the villagers here that there is a nexus between state enforcement agencies and illegal liquor sellers and manufacturers in the tea garden areas. The excise department, the police and everyone know it but do nothing.”

Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar Ojha in Doomdooma