PATNA: Four people died in Bihar's Begusarai district allegedly after consuming surgical spirit when they failed to get liquor, police said on Monday, even as 600 litres of foreign liquor worth over Rs 9 lakh was seized in Purnea district.
Several bottles of surgical spirit, which is used for cleaning surgical equipment and contains up to 70 per cent alcohol, were seized at the house of one of the deceased, police claimed that the deaths were caused due to sickness.
The incident took place at Pokharia under Town police station. According to the villagers, the four victims - Manoj Paswan, 40, Pradip Kumar, 32, Sunil Kumar, 28, and Soni Ram, 32 - allegedly got together and consumed the surgical spirit at a nearby stadium late on Sunday evening.
As they complained of severe stomach pain, they were rushed to a private hospital. While Sunil Kumar died in the night, the other three men died on Monday morning, said the locals. Police, however, confirmed three deaths. Two of the four bodies could be sent for post mortem as the families of the two others cremated the bodies hurriedly, said sources.
"The cause of the deaths is yet to be clear. We recovered about a dozen bottles of surgical spirit from the house of one of the dead men. A probe is on," said Begusarai SP Aditya Kumar. Meena Devi, a villager, said the four dead men were alcoholics and had sat together to drink alcohol.
"They drank the spirit perhaps because they failed to procure alcohol," she added. Begusarai DSP Mithilesh Kumar claimed that the four dead men were sick and had been under treatment. "Their families said they died because of their illness," he said.
In prohibition-bound Bihar, seven people had died after consuming spurious liquor in Vaishali and Rohtas districts in October and November last respectively. Sixteen people had lost their lives in such an incident in Gopalganj district in August 2016.
Police and excise officials seized 600 litres of foreign liquor and beer worth over Rs 9 lakh in Purnea district and arrested two smugglers on Monday. SDO (Sadar) KK Rai said the liquor was brought from West Bengal.
"The illegal liquor market in Bihar stands at more than Rs 10,000 crore because of the nexus of the smuggling mafia, police and the RCP tax mafia," tweeted Tejashwi Yadav, the leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly. "While the law and order system and prohibition have both failed, the CM is busy playing games to save his chair," he added.
Prohibition was enforced in Bihar by the Nitish Kumar-led government in April 2016 through a stringent anti-liquor law that banned manufacturing, sale and consumption of liquor. Despite efforts by police and excise officials, reports of liquor smuggling and clandestine consumption abound.