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Hooch tragedy in upper Assam tea garden claims 27 lives

Deaths happened even as govt was cracking down on illicit liquor

By Ritupallab Saikia in Golaghat
  • Published 23.02.19, 12:06 AM
  • Updated 23.02.19, 12:06 AM
  • 2 mins read
Biren Ghatowar and his wife at the hospital. Ritupallab Saikia

The hooch tragedy in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district has claimed over 27 lives, while the unofficial death toll stands at 30.

The incident occurred at the Halmira tea estate, owned by the Newar Group. It is located 5km from here. Four women — Agni Gowala, 55, Beul Bhumij, 50, Draupadi Orang, 50 and Bandhoin Orang, 48, died on Thursday night after consuming spurious liquor at the tea garden.

The toll mounted on Friday as those who had consumed the spurious liquor started flooding Swahid Kushal Konwar Hospital here. Most of the victims complained of severe headache and heartburn along with vomiting. On Friday, 15 persons died and their bodies were sent for post mortem.

Jorhat Medical College and Hospital is also packed with victims of hooch poisoning. JMCH public relations officer Manab Gohain told The Telegraph that 50 patients have been admitted from Golaghat district, while six others were admitted from Borhola area under Titabor subdivision of Jorhat district with similar poisoning.

Two of the victims from Borhola, Junti Gogoi, 40 and Jelmi Ganju, 45, died at JMCH, he added.

The dead in Golaghat have been identified as Sunita Pujar, 40, Binoti Bhokta, 45, Bonchan Orang, 45, Mon Ghatowar, 28, Septi Karmakar, 26, Mira Tanti, 35, Pinky Bawri, 40, Kartik Ghatowar, 31, Sunti Pujar, 57, Sukhlal Pujar, 35, Dulal Orang, 35, Etowa Pujar, 50, Probin Pujar, 45, Bhakru Kujar, 50, Bakru Bhakta, 55, Lolita Pujar, 45, Chetti Pujar, 20, Kanchi Pujar, 40 and Rumi Pujar (44).

Two persons died in Gobinddpur in Gomari — Moniram Dutta, 40 and Kamal Gogoi, 55.

“For the last 20 days we have been carrying out a drive against illicit liquor but last night’s incident was an exception. We were trying to extract information from Sanju Orang, 26, as he, along with his mother Draupadi was serving the liquor in their house, but both of them died,” said Golaghat superintendent of police Pushpraj Singh. “We have arrested two persons so far.”

Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has instituted a one-man inquiry and asked Upper Assam division commissioner Julie Sonowal to probe the corollaries of events leading to the deaths. He asked minister Topon Kumar Gogoi, MP Kamakshya Prasad Tasa and MLA Mrinal Saikia to rush to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Deputy commissioner Dhiren Hazarika said an inquiry has been instituted by additional deputy commissioner Dhiraj Das. He has been asked to submit the report within three days.

Survivor: Biren Ghatowar, 35, a tea garden worker of Halmira tea estate, said: “After returning from work I purchased half litre chulai (hooch). I started a severe headache on consuming it and could not take my dinner. When I arrived at the hospital there was a huge gathering and chaos prevailed,” he said.

Additional reporting by Devajit Baruah in Jorhat