As the death toll in Bihar's Gopalganj district climbed to 13 on Wednesday, the state government has gone into a damage control mode by dismissing Opposition's claim that the tragedy happened because of consumption of spurious liquor.
Following the deaths, ANI tweeted Nitish Kumar as saying-
We are concerned about Gopalganj tragedy, strict actions will be taken against the people behind this: Nitish Kumar pic.twitter.com/SEj4lH9d4L
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 18, 2016
Ever since the blanket ban on sale of alcohol was announced by the Nitish Kumar-led government on 5 April, this is the first time deaths due to consumption of liquor has been reported. But according to Rahul Kumar, Gopalganj district magistrate, the deaths seemed to be 'mere coincidence', a claim also being supported by the superintendent of Gopalganj, Ravi Ranjan.
With the kin of the victims alleging the deaths happened because of consumption of spurious alcohol, Kumar has constituted a three member team and has ordered a probe into the incident.
According to The Indian Express, Mahesh Mahato, brother of Sashikant Mahato — one of the victims in the alleged hooch tragedy — claimed that his brother had indeed consumed illicit liquor on Monday and started complaining about stomach ache and nausea.
MP Singh, Gopalganj Sadar Hospital surgeon who was treating the victims, was also cautious in linking the deaths to only to consumption of spurious liquor while admitting that the post-mortem report holds the "key".
While the state government has ordered Saran Divisional Commissioner Narmadeshwar Lal to submit a report, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi asked whether the Nitish Kumar-led government will take responsibility for the deaths, The Indian Express reported.
Following the deaths, the Opposition has upped the ante against prohibition with senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav saying, "If there is a total ban on liquor in Bihar, how come the poor are dying after consuming it? The Nitish Kumar-led government has failed to enforce liquor ban."
On Wednesday, 13 people died overnight under "mysterious circumstances" in Gopalganj district of Bihar while five others are in critical conditions.
All the victims were residents of Nonia tola locality - one of the poorest section of the district.