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Liquor tragedy toll 43; Modi faces protests
Published on 9 Jul. 2009 12:36 AM IST
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As many as 43 people have died after drinking illegally brewed liquor in Ahmedabad, the Gujarat police said Wednesday, while Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi faced widespread protests. "The death toll in the liquor tragedy now stands at 43," Director General of Police (DGP) S.S. Khandwawala told reporters Wednesday evening in Gandhinagar. The matter was being thoroughly investigated to identify the liquor dens and nab the bootleggers across the state, he added. At least 16 people who had fallen critically ill after consuming liquor Tuesday were being treated in four hospitals in Ahmedabad. The victims are from Sagrapitha and Behrampura in the eastern part of the city and are mostly labourers. Sale and consumption of alcohol is completely banned across Gujarat since the state's inception in 1960. The rising toll has triggered widespread protests from activists of NGOsas well as the state's main opposition Congress party, who have targeted Chief Minister Modi, who also holds the charge of home portfolio. Minister of State for Home Amit Shah told the state assembly Wednesday that a commission would be set up to probe the illicit liquor tragedy. He, however, did not say when the commission would start the probe. "The government has ordered suspension of a deputy superintendent of police in-charge of the areas where the tragedy took place and all necessary action is being taken against the responsible officials," he said. He said a high percentage of ethyl alcohol in the brew seems to have caused so many casualties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government ordered the suspension of two police inspectors in-charge of the locality, where the tragedy took place. Shah earlier ordered action against a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in-charge of the area that includes Sagrapitha. The opposition members later protested what they termed "insufficient action" taken by the state government. Speaker Ashok Bhatt suspended 10 Congress legislators for disrupting the proceedings of the house as they shouted slogans. Several Congress members rushed to the well of the house, demanding Shah's resignation. Gujarat Congress spokesperson Arjun Modhvadia later told reporters that the state government had been unable to break the "police-bootlegger nexus", leading to the tragedy. "We demand the home minister's resignation immediately," he added.

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