The illicit liquor tragedy in the Malvani area of Malad, Mumbai on Thursday evening has resulted in the death of 105 people, with 25 in a critical state and the death toll likely to increase further.
The people who consumed spurious liquor were the daily wage labourers and the rickshaw drivers in Lakshminagar colony near Gamdevi Jurrasic Park in Malvani area and reportedly had breathing issues, vomiting and loose motions after having it. A preliminary analysis of the liquor found a high content of methanol, which is added to increase its potency making the alcohol more powerful and dangerous. The police officers of the local police station have been blamed for not taking the necessary steps to curb the influence of the illicit liquor lobby and for helping the bootleggers and the hooch brewers. The Excise Department has suspended four of its officials for dereliction of duty in connection with the incident. Illicit liquor has been a reason for innumerable deaths in the country. In last January, 31 people died due to toxic liquor in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. In 2004, 87 lost their lives after consuming spurious liquor in suburban Vikhroli, Mumbai. Four years ago in West Bengal, 170 people died in a similar hooch tragedy. The mishaps still continue to happen. Around 5 percent of the country’s population is addicted to liquor. Despite being the richest state, the majority of the population of Punjab is under the influence of alcohol. While the affluent consume foreign and branded liquor, the poor have cheap arrack, risking their lives. A parallel illicit liquor lobby operates in almost all states, cities and villages making the country liquor available for cheap rates through bars, parlours and small outlets. According to the analysis carried out by the Indian Alcohol Policy Allowance, 1-2 people die every week in India consuming spurious liquor proving the extent of influence of toxic liquor on the people.
As far as Kerala is concerned, more than 40 percent of the government revenue comes from liquor sales. Investigations are carried out as regular rituals and the initial hype gradually die down with no effective steps taken to ensure that similar mishaps won’t be repeated. The officials and political leaders back these lobbyists in return for illegal monthly bribes and the government has not been able to do much in the matter. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a thorough investigation into the matter. A few junior officials were also arrested in connection with the tragedy. The Opposition critisised the government of trying to protect the criminals behind the tragedy and it can’t be rubbished off as a mere political allegation. The political parties including the BJP as well as the Congress back the illicit liquor lobby. The investigations surrounding the state’s bar bribe issue and numerous hooch tragedies are evidences of the government’s support for the lobbyists. Liquor is made available in the state citing the flow of illicit liquor that could risk people’s lives. Both the types are easily available at cheap prices. The state of Gujarat had implemented total liquor prohibition that was reportedly effective. There weren’t any issues pointed out by the opposing parties. The criminals behind the Malad tragedy should be penalized and steps should be taken to ensure that no such mishaps would happen in future. The only ray of hope is obviously, a complete liquor prohibition.