Punjab hooch tragedy: Death toll climbs to 20, EC seeks report from chief secretary, DGP

CHANDIGARH, Mar 23: The Election Commission on Saturday sought an immediate report from the Punjab chief secretary and the director general of police on the Sangrur hooch tragedy where the death toll due to suspected consumption of spurious liquor rose to 20.

Police said alcohol containing methanol was used for making spurious liquor in Sangrur district, adding that it has arrested eight out of the 10 identified accused in the case.

The SAD and the BJP lashed out at the AAP government over the hooch tragedy, asking why Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has not directed his Excise Minister Harpal Singh Cheema to resign till now.

BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh alleged that the tragedy was the result of the “liquor scam” that has been going on in the state under the patronage of the AAP government.

Also, a delegation of the Punjab BJP on Saturday met the state Chief Electoral Officer and pressed for an ED probe into the state excise policy, alleging “black money received by AAP through kickbacks” could be used during the Lok Sabha elections.

BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said several people have lost their lives in Mann’s home district Sangrur but he is busy “doing politics” in Delhi.

“AAP has a unique connection with Sharab (liquor). From Punjab to Delhi – AAP ka nasha karobar,” he posted on X.

Sangrur Civil Surgeon Kirpal Singh on Saturday said 20 people have died so far in the incident.

Eleven people are undergoing treatment at Patiala’s Rajindra Hospital and six at the Civil Hospital in Sangrur.

Officials said that the casualties have been reported from Gujran, Tibbi Ravidaspura and Dhandoli Khurd villages in Dirba and Sunam blocks.

The Election Commission has directed Punjab Chief Secretary Anurag Verma and DGP Gaurav Yadav to submit reports to it on the incident.

In a letter, the Punjab Chief Electoral Officer Sibin C asked the two senior officials to submit preliminary and detailed reports regarding the incident on Saturday, according to an official statement.

The officials earlier said that a four-member special investigation team (SIT), led by an additional director general of police rank officer, has been set up in connection with the incident.

Addressing the media here, ADGP G S Dhillon said three FIRs have been lodged so far in connection with this incident.

Out of 10, eight accused including two masterminds’?Harmanpreet Singh and Gurlal Singh, have been arrested, he said.

Investigation revealed that alcohol with methanol content from a factory in Noida was procured by the accused.

Methanol is used in many industrial products, he said. “It has a major content of methanol which is fatal,” said the ADGP.

Replying to a question, Dhillon said police would investigate whether there was any “conspiracy angle or a profit motive” behind the incident.

So far investigations reveal that the accused were selling a liquor bottle, which was priced at Rs 280, for Rs 140, he said adding that most of the victims were daily wagers.

Dhillon said three FIRs have been lodged at police stations Dirba, City Sunam and Cheema in this case.

The SIT will thoroughly investigate the forward and backward linkages in this case to unearth the modus operandi and nexus to trace the source of spurious liquor which found its way to the villages and all the culprits involved in this case will be arrested, said police.

Besides ADGP Dhillon, Deputy Inspector General (Patiala Range) Harcharan Bhullar, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sangrur, Sartaj Chahal, and Additional Commissioner (Excise) Naresh Dubey will be part of the SIT.

“The SIT will go to the bottom of the conspiracy. No person found involved will be spared,” police said.

The district administration has already formed a five-member committee, led by the Dirba sub-divisional magistrate, to investigate the matter.


The police had earlier claimed to have recovered 200 litres of ethanol, 156 bottles of alcohol, 130 bottles containing suspected spurious liquor with labelling, 80 bottles containing spurious liquor without labelling, 4,500 empty bottles and a bottling machine etc.

A survey was also being conducted in the affected villages to find out if anyone else reported symptoms of deterioration in health, the officials said. (PTI)

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