65 people have now been confirmed dead in Chapra, in Bihar’s Saran district, due to the consumption of toxic liquor, news agency ANI reported. The tragedy, the biggest since Bihar went dry more than six years ago, is the latest in a long list of such deaths in Bihar ever since Chief Minister Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition in 2016.
The JDU-RJD government is facing loud protests by the opposition BJP in the Assembly and outside over alleged laxity in implementing prohibition.
Nitish Kumar reiterated his stand that there would be no compensation who died after drinking illegal alcohol. The number of people drinking toxic liquor in Bihar, both before and after prohibition, is low, he claimed, adding that in other places where there is no prohibition, people are still dying after drinking toxic liquor.
“Madhya Pradesh is on top. Where is this not happening — Haryana, Uttar Pradesh. Go anywhere and it’s the same story. When they died of toxic liquor, we are saying you’ll die if you drink that. Why don’t you publish when they die in the same in other places? I will reiterate everywhere, if someone is speaking in favour of alcohol, it’ll never be to your benefit,” an animated Kumar said.
He then trained his guns towards the BJP, implying that the media disproportionately covers such tragedies in opposition-ruled states.
“In the state where the bridge collapsed, just one news was published and then nothing. When the same happened in Bengal, it ran for so long. We will popularise it more, that you’ll die if you drink alcohol. Those who died after drinking, we will give them compensation? It’s not going to happen,” he added.
— NDTV India (@ndtvindia) December 16, 2022
Kumar had yesterday as well refused to give compensation to the families of those killed, and said people should be “more vigilant” when the state anyway has prohibition.
“Jo sharaab peeyega, wo toh marega hi na… Udaharan saamne hai – peeyoge toh maroge. (Those who drink liquor will obviously die. We have an example in this case),” Mr Kumar said in Hindi in response to a question in Patna, referring to demands of compensation in earlier cases.
He had even furiously screamed “sharabi ho tum (you are a drunk)” at the opposition BJP on December 14 as he faced protests in the Assembly.
The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Bihar government and the state’s police chief.
The sale and consumption of alcohol was completely banned in Bihar in April 2016, though its “implementation has been patchy,” the NHRC observed in a statement.
In August, in a case in the same district, five people died after drinking toxic liquor. The police are reportedly looking for more who have been taken sick; they may have gone into hiding to avoid interrogation as liquor is banned in Bihar.
With inputs from NDTV