As Kallakurichi hooch tragedy leaves 38 dead, Opposition wants CBI probe, seeks CM Stalin’s resignation

Opposition leaders allege that DMK functionaries at grassroot level were in connivance with people selling illicit liqour in Kallakurichi.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 20, 2024 | 7:18 PM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 7:50 PM

Over 38 dead in Kallakurichi hooch tragedy, Opposition seek CBI probe

The entire Karunapuram locality in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi on Thursday, 20 June echoed with the wails of the family members of the victims of illicit arrack, which has claimed the lives of at least 38 persons and left some children orphaned with the tragedy claiming both their parents.

Additionally, over 100 people are being treated in various hospitals with several of them in critical condition, authorities said. While several say that it was a treagedy waiting to happen, AIADMK – the principal Opposition party in the state – has moved Madras High Court to transfer the probe into the tragedy from CB-CID to CBI. The court will likely take up the matter reportedly on 21 June.

Several other political leaders, including BJP’s K Annamalai asked for a CBI probe while AIADMK and PMK’s Ramadoss insisted on the CM resigning as well. There have been several allegations by political parties that authorities took no action about the illicit liqour being sold in the area despite multiple complaints and that DMK functionaries were in “connivance” with those selling liqour.

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CM on Karunapuram tragedy

Speaking about the tragedy, Chief Minister MK Stalin said: “The Kallakurichi incident must not have happened and it has caused deep anguish to me.” The deaths were due to consumption of ‘methanol mixed arrack,’ he said, adding that he has directed authorities to ensure special care to those being treated in hospitals.

Stalin, who held a meeting to review the situation, announced setting up of a one-man commission to be led by retired Madras High Court Judge B Gokuldas to make recommendations to the government on measures to be taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents and also to look into the reasons for the deaths.

Four persons linked to the sale of the poisonous arrack have been arrested so far, Stalin said while declaring 10 lakh assistance to each of the families of the deceased. He also announced 50,000 assistance to those who are being treated in hospitals. The state Home Secretary and Director General of Police will submit a report on the hooch tragedy following inspection, he added. He assured tough action against those who provided methanol for making the spurious concoction that became poisonous.

In this backdrop, several political leaders across the state have come down heavily on the DMK-led government for letting a tragedy like this happen within a year of Villupuram hooch tragedy, in which over 20 people died.

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Political leaders visit the gloomy Karunapuram

The entire Karunapuram, which has witnessed over 38 deaths including that of two women and one trans-person, wore a gloomy look. Heart-wrenching scenes, including that of a sobbing young girl, anxious relatives awaiting a medical update on their near and dear ones and women wailing in the streets were witnessed in this nondescript locality.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) and AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami visited the affected people, including three children who have lost both their parents and promised that the party will take care of all their educational expenses. He also promised 5,000 assistance to them for 10 years and insisted that financial assistance to the families of the deceased should be increased by the government from 10 lakh to 25 lakh.

Taking to ‘X’ to post about the tragedy, EPS condemned the DMK government for failing to curb the production of illicit liquor and urged the CM to take responsibility for the deaths and resign.

In an another post, he alleged that AIADMK MLA Senthilkumar had repeatedly complained to the SP about the sale of counterfeit liquor and about the high prevalence of the sale of cannabis in the region and charged that officials didn’t take any action despite multiple complaints.

அதிமுக எம்.எல்.ஏ. செந்தில்குமார் பலமுறை எஸ்.பி.யிடம் கள்ளச்சாராய விற்பனை குறித்து புகார் தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

கஞ்சா,கள்ளச்சாராய விற்பனை இப்பகுதியில் அதிகளவில் புழக்கத்தில் உள்ளது; புகார் கூறியும் எந்த நடவடிக்கையும் இல்லை.

மாண்புமிகு கழகப் பொதுச்செயலாளர் புரட்சித்தமிழர்…

— AIADMK – Say No To Drugs & DMK (@AIADMKOfficial) June 20, 2024

The Tamil Nadu Police has, so far, suspended 10 of its officers, including the Villupuram Superintendent of Police (SP) N Shreenatha after the deaths. Additionally, the Deputy Superintendents of Police (Prohibition Enforcement Wing) of the Villupuram and Chengalpet districts were also suspended.

EPS said that the state government hasn’t taken any action to curb the sale of illicit liqour despite him pointing it out several times.

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Annamalai criticises CM for not visiting victims’ families

Making strong accusation that DMK functionies at the grass root level in Karunapuram are connected to the liqour business, he said he will soon be sending a report on the incident to national leaders. Addressing the media after visiting the families of victims, he said, “We will request Hon’ble Home Minister Amit Shah to order a CBI probe into the tragedy. After visiting the houses of victims for the last 3 hours we are sure that DMK functionaries at grass roots level are strongly connected to the illicit liquor business.”

Saying that the death toll is expected to rise, he said it is disappointing that the CM hasn’t visited the victims’ families yet. “It is deeply disappointing that CM MK Stalin is yet to come to Kallakurichi but he is sending his son Udhayandihi Stalin. Even in such a time, he wants to do dynastic politics. We demand the CM to visit Kalalakaruchi immediately and sack the Minister for Prohibition and Excise in the next 24 hours. This is a clear administrative and law and order failure.”

Annamalai also announced a state-wide protest on 22 June against the ‘incompetence’ of the DMK government in curbing the production and sale of illicit liquor.

BJP national co-incharge of Tamil Nadu affairs P Sudhakar Reddy on Thursday, 20 June said the CM should take moral responsibility for the hooch tragedy in Kallakurichi and also demanded that Prohibition and Excise Minister S Muthusamy be dropped from the cabinet immediately. He also sought a probe into the incident by a sitting judge. He told PTI that the deaths is a “grim example of the incapable and corrupt governance of the ruling party.”

Pattali Makkal Katchi founder Ramadoss lashed out at the ruling DMK government in the state for the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy as he implored the government to take full responsibility for the incident and resign immediately.

Speaking to PTI, Ramadoss said:”The entire Tamil Nadu is under the influence of liquor, this government can’t rescue the people who are addicted to liquor. Chief Minister MK Stalin and his government must resign immediately and they should apologise to the people of Tamil Nadu for this tragic incident.”

DMDK general secretary Premalatha Vijayakanth was among the political leaders who visited the victims being treated at the Kallakurichi government hospital.

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#ResignStalin starts trending

#ResignStalin started trending on ‘X’ with several users targeting the ‘Dravidian model’ tagline of the DMK regime by posting messages using the hashtag #Sarayamodel (arrack model).

While the CB-CID officials began their probe in Kallakurichi, Stalin said he had directed them to probe the source of methanol and its complete destruction at the local level. Authorities had already seized about 200 litres of illicit arrack and an analysis disclosed the presence of deadly methanol, he added.

Health Minister Ma Subramanian and PWD Minister EV Velu are in Kallakurichi to render help to the affected people.

DMK senior Minister Velu, responding to the accusations, said that it should not be assumed as if ‘illicit arrack sale’ has happened only under the DMK rule and such incidents have been occurring during all the regimes. “Every government (be it DMK or AIADMK governments) has taken tough action, this government has been taking stern action continuously,” he told reporters.

Ruling DMK’s allies – CPI and MDMK demanded tough legal action against those involved in the episode.

(Edited by Neena)

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