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Assam Hooch tragedy: NHRC notice to state govt; asks Home Min to issue directions to states, UTs


Press Trust of India New Delhi
The National Human Rights Commission has sent a notice to Assam government over death of more than 150 people after consuming toxic liquor in Golaghat and Jorhat districts of Assam, officials said Monday.
The NHRC has also asked the Union Home Ministry to issue necessary directions to the director generals of police of all states and Union Territories to "enhance vigil" to check illicit liquor menace.
As many as 157 people, mostly tea garden workers, have so far died in Assam hooch tragedy and more than 300 others are still undergoing treatment in hospitals in the affected districts of Golaghat and Jorhat while 22 people have been arrested in connection with the incident, officials said on Monday.
"Reportedly, there are more than 300 people admitted for treatment in the hospitals. As per news report, the police authorities have expressed apprehension that the methanol used in the hooch is the reason behind the deaths, but the exact cause of death will be known only after the examinations are conducted," the rights panel said in a statement.
The commission has issued notices to the chief secretary of Assam, seeking a detailed report within four weeks including on action taken against officers or officials, relief and rehabilitation provided to the victims, and their dependents, along with status of the medical treatment being provided to those who are still fighting for their lives in the hospitals.
The NHRC said "it also expects from the Union Home Secretary to issue necessary directions to the director generals of police of all all states and Union Territories, calling upon them to look into the matter personally and issue relevant guidelines to enhance police patrolling and vigil in the affected areas of their states, and take strict legal action against the culprits".
If necessary, special teams at the district-level be constituted to clamp down on the perpetrators, in an effective manner, it said, adding, the response from the Home Secretary is expected within four weeks.
The Commission has observed that a few days ago, it had expressed concern over the death of people in hooch tragedy in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as apparently, the state authorities had "failed to take effective measures and stringent action" against the errant officials and the violators of law.
"It appears that this issue of spurious and illicit liquor is not restricted to one or two states, rather it has become a serious issue at the national level. The law is very much in existence to deal with this menace but in view of present scenario, it seems that there is a need to sensitise the police and the excise authorities in the states to be more active and vigilant so that precious human lives are not lost," the statement said.
An effective mechanism is required to be evolved to curb the unlawful network of spurious liquor manufacturers and distributors who are playing with the lives of the innocent people, the rights panel said.
With the death toll continuing to mount since Thursday night, the BJP government drew flak from the opposition Congress which accused it of being indifferent to the plight of victims and demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident saying "a tragedy of this magnitude has never taken place in Assam's history".

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First Published: Feb 25 2019 | 9:40 PM IST

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