24/02/2019 6:11 PM IST | Updated 24/02/2019 6:15 PM IST

124 Dead In Assam In India's 2nd Hooch Tragedy This Month, 16 Arrested

A large number of tea estates labourers in Golaghat and Jorhat districts had fallen ill after drinking spurious liquor.

BIJU BORO via Getty Images

GUWAHATI, Assam — At least 124 people have died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor in Assam, the second such tragedy in the country this month, with many more hospitalised as authorities try to pinpoint the source and round up perpetrators.

331 people are undergoing treatment in hospitals, officials said on Sunday.

At least 71 people have died in Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH), where another 272 are under treatment, a senior Health Department official told PTI.

Four more died in Titabor Subdivision Hospital in Jorhat district, he said.

In Golaghat district, the death count was 49, while 59 people are admitted in Golaghat Civil Hospital, the official told PTI.

Some of the deaths at homes have not been reported to authorities, he said.

A large number of labourers of two tea estates of Golaghat and Jorhat districts had fallen ill after drinking spurious liquor on Thursday night and 12 of them had died the same night.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Health Minister Himanta Sarma had on Saturday reviewed the condition of victims undergoing treatment at JMCH.

Sonowal announced a monetary compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to those who fell ill.

He also ordered an inquiry into the incident by Upper Assam Division Commissioner Julie Sonowal on Friday and directed her to submit the report within a month.

Doctors from Assam Medical College Hospital of Dibrugarh district, Gauhati Medical College Hospital and Tezpur Medical College Hospital in Sonitpur district have been rushed to the Jorhat and Golaghat hospitals to provide medical care, Sarma said.

Besides, the Director of Medical Education Anup Barman, directors of Health, Assam and the National Rural Health Mission will be stationed in Jorhat to supervise and coordinate services being provided to patients, the minister had said on Saturday.

Hospital authorities have also been instructed to provide food for attendants of the hooch victims, besides the mandatory health care facilities and medicines.

1,500 people may have consumed spurious liquor

In Assam, bootleg liquor production and consumption is usually found in and around the state’s tea plantations where it is consumed by poorly-paid labourers.

There were about 10 different distilleries producing the spurious liquor that went to various tea plantations and other areas, Mrinal Saikia, a local lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party, told Reuters.

But the main ingredient used in the country liquor was supplied by one person from a nearby area, he said.

“Close to about 1,500 people must have consumed that lot of spurious liquor on Thursday that led to the deaths of 150,” Saikia told Reuters.

Police have arrested 16 people so far.

“We are interrogating them and will soon find out the source and people involved in supplying that toxic lot of spirit,” said Mukesh Agarwal, Assam’s additional police chief.