Chandigarh, August 2: The death toll in the Punjab hooch tragedy has risen to 86 in the three districts of Tarn Taran, Amritsar rural and Gurdaspur, reports said on Sunday. Alleging that Congress leaders and legislators are involved in illegal liquor trade in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation over the incident. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had made the same demand earlier.
“The hooch tragedy is the direct and natural consequence of the patronage given to Congress leaders, including ministers and MLAs, for freely carrying out rampant illicit liquor trade in the state,” SAD’s Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a statement. “It is a murder, pure and simple. All the guilty, including ministers and ruling party MLAs, be arrested,” he demanded. Badal added that the Chief Minister should resign owning the moral responsibility for this “horrendous crime”.
Of the 86 deaths, Tarn Taran alone accounted for 63 fatalities, followed by 12 in Amritsar and 11 in Gurdaspur’s Batala. CM Amarinder Singh, who has ordered a magisterial probe into the tragedy, on Saturday suspended seven excise officials and six policemen, describing their “failure” to check the manufacturing and sale of spurious liquor as “shameful”. He has also announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia compensation to each of the families of the deceased.
Urging Badal not to politicise the hooch tragedy, Amarinder Singh said such cases had happened earlier too, including under the SAD-BJP regime. Similar incidents had occurred in 2012 and 2016 in Gurdaspur and Batala respectively. Several lives were lost in these cases too, he pointed out, adding that in the Batala case, no FIR was even registered and no action taken against the main accused.