Twenty-three persons died after reportedly consuming spurious liquor in Banka, Bhagalpur and Madhepura districts of Bihar recently. While Banka and Bhagalpur reported 11 and eight deaths, respectively, Madhepura recorded four suspected hooch deaths during the Holi weekend. Holi was celebrated on March 18 and 19 in Bihar.

The district authorities, though, have said that some deaths resulted from food poisoning. Notably, no autopsy has been conducted yet on the deceased.

So far, Dumaria, Pawai and Dumrawan villages in Amarpur block of Banka have reported 11 deaths.

Mrinal Shekhar, who had unsuccessfully contested from Amarpur on a Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ticket during the 2020 Assembly polls, said: “The local administration has been trying to brush the deaths aside as a case of food poisoning. Let the post-mortem be conducted in all cases, and the truth will come out. “

There are reports that over half a dozen people have been admitted to hospitals in Banka and Bhagalpur. Sukhdev Sah, whose father-in-law Dablu Kumar is admitted in a Banka hospital, said: “My father-in-law drank liquor on March 18 and later complained of nausea, stomach pain and giddiness.”

Banka SP Arvind Kumar Gupta said: “We have asked the sub-divisional police officer to visit homes of the deceased. We do not know the reason for the deaths as of now. “

In Bhagalpur town’s Sahebganj area under University police station, four people allegedly died between Friday and Sunday after drinking spurious liquor while four suspected hooch deaths have been reported from Navgachhia’s Bhawanipur area during Holi. Bhagalpur police, too, have not confirmed any hooch death.

A senior police officer said, “We are conducting raids at possible hideouts of liquor suppliers based on information received from local residents.”

In Madhepura, four people died between Thursday and Saturday. Three victims belonged to one village. Another four have been admitted to various hospitals in the district. The Madhepura administration has also not confirmed any hooch death.

While Bihar Prohibition and Excise Minister Sunil Kumar has not made any statement on suspected hooch deaths, state police headquarters have directed Bhagalpur, Banka and Madhepura police to intensify raids to seize liquor.

In the last four months, over 50 people have died after consuming illicit liquor in Gopalganj, Betia, Nawada and Nalanda. Notably, the state cabinet has recently paved the way for an amendment in the liquor law, which would allow first-time liquor consumers to get away by paying a fine.

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