Lucknow/Dehradun: The death toll in the moonshine tragedy in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand rose to 97 on Sunday even as 215 people were arrested in a sweeping police crackdown on illicit liquor in Uttar Pradesh, officials said.
Simultaneously, as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) blamed the ruling BJP in both states for the mass deaths, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said he smelt “a conspiracy” in which the SP may be involved.
He said in Gorakhpur that a probe had been ordered. “Such incidents have happened in the past too where many times SP workers were involved. The guilty will not be spared.”
The death toll in Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh remained unchanged at 36, but 18 deaths were reported from the Meerut Medical College where many had been brought after consuming the illicit liquor on Thursday.
Meerut’s Superintendent of Police Ranvijay Singh confirmed the hospital deaths and said 14 others were still undergoing treatment at the medical facility and were in critical condition.
A hospital doctor told IANS that 17-18 of the 22-24 people brought after taking the moonshine had died.
Saharanpur District Magistrate Alok Kumar Pandey told IANS that post-mortem had confirmed 36 deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor.
Eleven persons also died in Kushinagar district.
A total of 32 people died in Roorkie and Haridwar in Uttarakhand.
All the deceased had crossed over to Balupur in Roorkie in the neighbouring hill state on Thursday for an after-death ritual where they were apparently served the spurious liquor.
In the crackdown following the deaths, a total of 9,269 litres of moonshine was seized in Uttar Pradesh and 1,066 litres in Uttarakhand.
A total of 215 persons were arrested in Uttar Pradesh while cases against 297 others have been filed. In Uttarakhand, 49 cases have been registered.
The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered a magisterial enquiry into the tragedy and many police and excise department officials have been suspended.
Police raided many places in Banda, Gorakhpur, Hamirpur, Chitrakoot, Basti, Deoband, Maharajganj, Mathura, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad and Meerut.
In a joint raid conducted by the police and excise department, in Nagla Madhya village of Etah district, 50 litres of spurious liquor was seized on Sunday and three persons arrested.
The deaths ignited a blame game.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in both the states ruled by it and said the BJP has to own up the responsibility for the tragedy.
“BJP is in power in both these states. If anyone is responsible, it is the BJP,” he said, and asked the state governments to hike the compensation announced to the bereaved families from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
He charged that so much trade in illicit liquor could not have been “done without government protection and patronage”.
BSP supremo Mayawati also come down heavily on the government over the deaths.
“The tragedy is not only unfortunate but heart rending and shameful. These incidents are the result of a callous and unconcerned BJP governments,” she tweeted.
The four-time Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh demanded that Excise Ministers of both the states should be immediately relieved of their duties and a CBI probe ordered to ensure a fair investigation.
Meanwhile, a press conference called by Uttar Pradesh Excise Minister Jai Pratap Singh on Sunday noon was called off at the last minute without any explanation.