Kallakurichi hooch tragedy: One more dead, ‘methanol provider’ nabbed

One of the arrested men, Gowtham from Korukkupet, had been in touch with Sivakumar, police said.
The number of victims undergoing treatment stands at 219 on Sunday
The number of victims undergoing treatment stands at 219 on Sunday (Photo | Sriram R)

KALLAKURICHI: As the death toll in the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy reached 56, the CB-CID on Sunday arrested a Chennai man suspected of providing methanol to the gang arrested for selling the toxic liquor in the district. Sivakumar, who was arrested from his hideout in MGR Nagar, allegedly provided the methanol to one Madhesh from Puducherry who in turn sent it to Kallakurichi.

The Prohibition Enforcement Wing also arrested four persons after they were allegedly found in possession of 1,500 litres of solvents at a chemical warehouse in Vadaperumbakkam of Tiruvallur. One of the arrested men, Gowtham from Korukkupet, had been in touch with Sivakumar, police said.

Meanwhile, six victims were discharged even as only one more person was hospitalised on Sunday. At present, 219 people are receiving treatment in four hospitals. The body of one Jayamurugan of Madhavacheri village was exhumed on orders of the collector to conduct an autopsy as his family claimed he had died on June 18 after consuming hooch.

The family of one Ilayaraja from the same village, who also died that day, made a similar claim and sought compensation but his body had been cremated, sources said. The official list of deceased from hooch consumption mentioned the person as having been treated at a private hospital but officials told TNIE the death is not verified yet.

The number of victims undergoing treatment stands at 219 on Sunday
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The number of victims undergoing treatment stands at 219 on Sunday
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‘Political pressure stymied police action’

After Karunapuram, which saw 32 deaths, Seshasamudram and Madhavacheri under Sankarapuram taluk are the worst affected villages, with eight deceased and 57 of the 219 hospitalised hailing from there.

The two villages lie near the Gomuki Dam below Kalvarayan hills and adjacent to Velli hills. “It is at Velli hills that the brewed hooch is received from the Kalvarayan hills and the sales begin from there. It is taken along the villages at the foothills and then to the town areas.

Since, the dam is also nearby, people relax there while consuming hooch. Regardless of the rampant sales in the town area, it is important to realise that the main distribution route for the hooch remains undisturbed by the police, administrators, and MLAs,” said M Anjali (40), a member of a self-help group from Karunapuram, which was worst affected.

A former taluk-level revenue official said, “The police and revenue officials are always under the eyes of local legislators. Every revenue-level officer get their share as well. For monthly reviews by collector and superintendent, a seizure of small quantities will be shown. The police, despite wanting to arrest the accused, would come under political pressure. This has been the case for the past two to three decades.”

The number of victims undergoing treatment stands at 219 on Sunday
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