06/21/2024, 18.21
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Methanol-laced booze kills the poor in Tamil Nadu

by Nirmala Carvalho

The death toll from tainted booze in Kallakurichi has reached 50, with about 100 people hospitalised. For Fr Devasagayaraj, the most disadvantaged were the most affected, especially Dalits who cannot afford more expensive drinks. Responsibility also lies with the state, which runs liquor shops through the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation.

Chennai (AsiaNews) – The death toll from the tainted booze tragedy in Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu, has risen to 50, while nearly 100 other people are fighting for their lives after drinking methanol-laced alcoholic drinks.

Kallakurichi is city located about 200 kilometres from the state capital Chennai. Most of the dead belonged to the economically and socially disadvantaged sections of the city's Dalit community, while others came from nearby villages.

Since Wednesday night, the Kallakurichi Government Medical College Hospital has been overwhelmed by a steady stream of victims of the deadly brew, brought in from the surrounding areas on mini lorries and autorickshaws.

People who needed emergency hemodialysis (filtering of blood) were referred to the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry, which reported three deaths. Four people died at the Government Medical College Hospital, Villupuram, while eight succumbed at the Government Medical College Hospital, Salem.

The Tamil Nadu government immediately suspended Kallakurichi Police Superintendent Samay Singh Meena and transferred District Administrative Manager Sravan Kumar Jatavath.

A dozen police officers and staff from the Prohibition Enforcement Wing, the special police unit enforcing alcohol bans, have also been suspended on charges of dereliction of duty, pending an investigation.

A shocked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin ordered stern action against all those suspected of involvement in the crime. The state government announced compensation of 1 million rupees for the families of the deceased and 50,000 rupees (US$ 600) for hospitalised patients.

“It is pathetic to see the condition of the children who lost their father and young widows who lost their husbands and mothers who lost their young sons. One mother cried that all her three sons are hospitalised because of the hooch,” said Fr Devasagayaraj, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cuddalore-Pondicherry, speaking to AsiaNews.

“These kind of hooch deaths happen mostly in North Tamil Nadu and in the places where the people are educationally backward and economically poor. Kallakurichi district is one of the backward districts in Tamil Nadu. Poor people go for cheap hooch since they can't afford to buy expensive liquor,” the clergyman explained.

“Giving education and improving the economic condition should be the long-term solution to these issues. Tamil Nadu state is running the liquor shops through its Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC). People also demand that there should be complete prohibition int the state.”

Photo: Flickr/Tom Bradnock

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