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Hooch tragedy no chemical disaster, Gujarat govt 'failed to implement' prohibition policy

By Our Representative 

The Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), an Ahmedabad-based civil rights group, has taken stong exception to the Gujarat government calling the recent hooch tragedy, which caused death of 57 persons in three districts, covering 60 villages, as a chemical tragedy. The country liquor which caused the tragedy consisted excessive quantity of methyl alcohol, "stolen" from a chemical company’s godown in Ahmedabad’s Aslali area.
Stating that it is, on the contrary, direct result of the laxity of the government, its administration and the nexus between the liquor barons, and those in power, MSD in its representation to the Gujarat chief minister quotes a letter by the sarpanch of Rojid (taluka Barwala) to the police seeking steps to stop liquor menace in his village.
Signed by tens of Gujarat-based activists, the MSD representation said, the state government lacks "political will" to strictly implement the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, which was amended in 2009. In fact, it regrets, the government "has been granting various relaxations in the policy since 2006, which have been devastating the social fabric of the state."
"It is a fact that the Government of Gujarat has never bothered to implement the recommendations of Justice Miabhai Commission of 1978, Justice Dave Commission of 1990 and Justice Mehta Commission of 2009", says the representation.
Demanding that state government should strictly implement the prohibition policy without offering any relaxations, MSD insists, the government must execute the recommendations of all inquiry commissions to strengthen the policy, hold police officers concerned accountable, even as speedily punish them, start de-addiction centres across the state, crack down on the nexus between politicians, police and bootleggers, and appoint a high level independent judicial commission to probe the tragedy.

Fact-finding report

The demands come following a fact-finding team report, which went around several villages of one of the worst-affected talukas, Barwala, stating that not only Akru, Nabhoi, Chowkdi, Rojid, Chandarwa, Uchhadi, Mosadi and Aniyari, whose names have surfaced in media, were affected, more than 20 other villages, including Ranpari, Vaiya, Karada, Tagdi, Devagna, whose names have not surfaced, too were "badly affected by the tragedy."
The report said, country liquor is sold illegally in 50 villages in shops situated between Chowkdi and Nabhoi of Barwala taluka, which "exposes the failure of the police and the government to nab the liquor sellers." It added, "In spite of repeated representations by the sarpanch of Rojid, no steps were taken."
Noting that many affected people have left villages out of fear of the police, the report said, "We could witness ambulances in almost all the surrounding villages which showed the intensity of the tragedy.On visiting the family of a poor youth who died in this tragedy, we came to know that he consumed liquor on July 24 and got admitted in the Botad hospital with complaint of blindness and died during treatment. The girls of four to twelve years lost their father."
According to the report, "We noted that the declaration of free medical treatment to the affected people is just in newspapers and known only in cities. The affected villages are not aware of this. " It noted, none from the government and the administration "visited the affected families for consolation."
It also found that liquor sale has become rampant after the introduction of Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), proposed in the south of Ahmedabad district as a high-flying industrial hub. Proposed more than a decade ago, the SIR has failed to take off following stiff resistance from the region's farmers agianst land acquisition.



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