With more than a hundred people dead in West Bengal due to spiked liquor consumption or hooch, is this drink turning into a cause of lifestyle disease amongst the poor?
WITH THE exception of 2007, there has not been a single year yet when cases of deaths related to consumption of spurious liquor went unreported. As per information posted on a personal blog, the spurious liquor case fiasco started in March 2006 when 22 people died after consuming illegal liquor in Ganjam district of Orissa followed by 8 in June 2009 in Bolangir district. The next incident was reported in May 2008 when 156 people died in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Exactly a year later 170 more cases were reported from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Similar deaths were also reported from places like Gujarat and Kolkata with the mortality numbers being 73 and 27 respectively.
With 2011 being the seventh year in succession of such deaths, one question that looms large is that why is the administration so handicapped at sealing bootleg liquor manufacturing units permanently? It is an open secret that the ingredients used in production of ‘hooch’ (as called locally) include ethyl alcohol and methyl and at times are laced with battery acid to give that kick. With such rampant and large-scale spiking of pouched liquor, why does not the government, on a national level, do something to curb this menace? The response will be quite simple as the government earns a major chunk of its revenue just from the alcohol industry, whether legitimate or illegitimate.
When Gujarat reported deaths due to consumption of spiked liquor, the common practice that was applicable across all the states was that the police was heavily involved and used to charge protection money from the couriers (read: dealers). The dealers acquire spurious liquor from the manufacturers and transport it to rural areas through motorcycles and scooters and many a times sneak away the same products to major cities within the victim states through other mediums.
With West Bengal being the latest state and many victims from South 24 Parganas district, reports compiled on bootlegged alcohol reported that since most of the consumers of this kind of alcohol are daily wagers and labourers, they sometimes feel it hard to restrain themselves from consuming it simply because they are addicted to it. These groups of people would go to any extent to consume such illegal brews, which eventually result in vomiting, fits or death.