Sangrur hooch tragedy toll rises to 9, kingpin arrested - Hindustan Times

Sangrur hooch tragedy toll rises to 9, kingpin arrested

ByKaram Prakash, Sangrur
Mar 22, 2024 09:00 AM IST

200 litres of ethanol, 130 labelled bottles of spurious liquor and bottling machine recovered from main accused Harmanpreet Singh’s house at Taipur village in Patran block in Patiala district

The Sangrur hooch tragedy toll rose to nine on Thursday with three more victims succumbing, while Punjab Police arrested the main accused, Harmanpreet Singh of Patran block in Patiala district.

Health department officials during a door-to-door survey after the hooch tragedy at Jakhepal Chowas village in Sangrur. (HT Photo)
Health department officials during a door-to-door survey after the hooch tragedy at Jakhepal Chowas village in Sangrur. (HT Photo)

Additional director general of police (ADGP) Arpit Shukla told reporters in Sangrur that a liquor smuggling gang had been busted and its kingpin, Harmanpreet Singh, who would brew and sell the spurious liquor from his house, was arrested at Taipur village in Patran block.

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Nearly 200 litres of ethanol, 130 labelled bottles of spurious liquor, 80 bottles without labels, 4,600 empty bottles, a bottling machine and an alcohol meter were recovered from his house, Shukla said. “Harmanpreet had just started out making illicit liquor and it was the consignment he sold to other accused, who have also been arrested, that led to the deaths. We have seized the raw material being used,” he said.

Asked about the availability of ethanol that is sold only to registered buyers in such a huge amount, Shukla said investigation was on and raids were underway to arrest those who supplied the stock to Harmanpreet. “Our teams are in other states too to arrest the other accused,” he added.

On the claims by family members of the deceased that the bottles seized from the accused were different from the ones that the victims had consumed, ADGP Shukla said, “This too is a part of the investigation. The accused was himself printing labels of different brands. Therefore, there is a possibility that he might have printed labels of other liquor brands too.”

Showing the bottles, the deceased’s family members had claimed that the liquor consumed by their kin was country-made liquor that was distilled, blended, and manufactured by a distillery in Bathinda. The liquor bottles seized from the kingpin were, however, manufactured in Haryana.

Besides Harmanpreet, the other accused arrested are Sukhwinder Singh, Manpreet Singh and Gurlal Singh.

Police said that the accused would sell a bottle of liquor for 150 to the villagers. Gurlal got the illicit liquor from Harmanpreet and supplied it to Manpreet and Sukhwinder.

Manpreet and Sukhwinder belonged to Gujran village in Dirba block of Sangrur district, where the hooch deaths took place initially.

Three more victims, Kuldeep Singh and Gurjant Singh of Dhandoli Khurd village, and Gurdial Singh of Uppli village, died at Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, where they had been undergoing treatment, on Thursday, taking the toll to nine.

Of the nine victims, five belonged to Gujran village, three to Dhandoli Khurd and one to Uppli village. At present, 11 victims are undergoing treatment at the civil hospital in Sangrur and Government Rajindra Hospital.

Kin demand compensation

Blaming the Punjab government for the incident, family members of the deceased demanded compensation. Gurjant Singh, the father of deceased Kuldeep Singh of Dhandholi Khurd, said, “We belong to a poor family, and have an outstanding debt of nearly 2 lakh. Punjab government should give us some compensation so that both the kids of the deceased can complete their education.”

Cheema express grief

Chandigarh: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Thursday expressed grief over the death of nine people in Gujjran (Dirba) of Sangrur due to consumption of spurious liquor. “The government is with the families in this time of grief,” the Dirba MLA said in a statement, declaring that no one, responsible for these deaths, will be spared. Cheema said the police have already arrested the people behind spurious alcohol and registered a case under Section 302 of IPC to ensure the strictest possible action.

Excise minister must step down: Bajwa

Leader of the Opposition (LoP) Partap Singh Bajwa on Thursday accused Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann of “failure to fix responsibility” for the hooch tragedy and sought resignation of excise minister Cheema.

“CM Bhagwant Mann and excise minister Harpal Singh Cheema have not even visited the families of the deceased and those hospitalised. It shows their insensitivity towards the loss of precious lives,” Bajwa added.

He added, “CM Mann had once endorsed FIR under Section 302 (murder) of IPC in such cases. Why can’t a case be lodged against the excise minister, who represents the Dirba assembly segment, which comes under Sangrur, the home district of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann.” Bajwa added that the Punjab CM must at least ask the excise minister to step down.

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