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Guj liquor death toll rises to 105
Published on 10 Jul. 2009 10:44 PM IST
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The death toll in one of Gujarat’s worst moonshine tragedies rose to 105 even as doctors in four hospitals were trying desperately to save scores of other critically ill patients, officials said Friday. People began dying Monday after having consumed illicit liquor. By midnight Thursday, 105 lives had been lost. Authorities said 149 patients admitted to the Civil Hospital, L.G. Hospital, Shardaben Hospital and V.S. Hospital were still critically ill. “The ICU (intensive care unit) is full of these patients and there are about 60 outside in various wards,” said an intern at the Civil Hospital. He said that the slow poison effect of the brew on the nervous system is claiming lives though many of the patients have been on life support for over three days. “The last time the state witnessed a liquor tragedy of this scale was in 1989, when 132 people were killed in a matter of days,” he added. Embarrassed by the scale of the tragedy in a state where consumption and sale of liquor is officially banned, police have swept through Gujarat in search of those illegally selling home-made liquor. On Thursday, Gujarat closed down 1,200 liquor dens and arrested over 800 illegal brewers. A home department official monitoring the police raids said: “A majority of those arrested deal in country liquor in ghettos in cities, townships and villages.” A police team has also been rushed to Memahdabad, about 35 km from here, to hunt for the person who is believed to have manufactured and supplied the illicit liquor that led to the tragedy. Information about him was given by notorious bootlegger Harishankar Kahar, who was detained by the Crime Branch here Wednesday night. The government has also announced a four-member commission headed by a former Gujarat High Court judge to probe the tragedy. It will submit its findings by Nov 30. Gujarat is the country’s only state where sale and consumption of liquor is banned in deference to Mahatma Gandhi, a Gujarati who was passionately opposed to liquor. This has led to a proliferation of illegal liquor dens, whose home-made brew is mostly consumed by those from low income families who can’t afford high priced drinks available outside the state.

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