Death toll rises in Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy, several hospitalised after consuming illicit arrack in Kallakurichi

The Tamil Nadu government has transferred the Kallakurichi district collector and suspended the police superintendent over the hooch tragedy.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 19, 2024 | 10:41 PM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 9:55 AM

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Death toll has been rising and dozens have been hospitalised after they allegedly consumed illicit liquor in the Kallakurichi district of Tamil Nadu.

Officials said on Wednesday, 19 June, that these people were suspected to have consumed illicit “packet arrack”. While some reports put the death toll at 9 at around 7 PM on Wednesday, the number had risen to 13 by 10.30 PM.

The government said they had arrested a 49-year-old man named K Kannukutti in connection with the incident.

It added that an analysis of about 200 litres of illicit arrack seized from him revealed the presence of deadly methanol in the liquor.

The Tamil Nadu government also said in a statement that it had transferred Kallakurichi District Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath and suspended Superintendent of Police Samay Singh Meena over the hooch tragedy.

Nine other police personnel — including some from the prohibition wing of the Kallakurichi district — have also been placed under suspension.

MS Prasanth and Rajath Chaturvedi have been appointed as the new collector and police superintendent for the Kallakurichi district.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister MK Stalin has ordered a CB-CID probe to ensure a comprehensive investigation.

Stalin also rushed senior ministers EV Velu and Ma Subramanian to Kallakurichi to render all assistance to the affected families.

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Political reactions

Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami, quoting local news reports, told reporters that approximately 40 people had been hospitalised after drinking the illicit arrack.

“Deaths due to illicit arrack consumption are continuing ever since the DMK regime took over, and I have been raising the issue and seeking action in the state Assembly as well,” Palaniswami said.

He also demanded that the state government take tough action on the issue. “Precious lives of poor people have been lost in Kallakurichi,” he said.

Palaniswami also took to X (formerly Twitter) to extend his condolences and repeat his demand for strict action against those responsible.

He also claimed that the current DML regime in Tamil Nadu had done nothing to crack down on illicit liquor.

Meanwhile, PMK founder leader S Ramadoss demanded that Stalin take responsibility for the deaths.

He alleged that the police department and the government were unable to rein in the sale of illicit arrack, leading to such hooch tragedies in Tamil Nadu.

He also urged the government to provide ₹10 lakh as solatium to the kin of each of the deceased.

Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai said on X, “It is heart-wrenching to see the parents cry out of the pain of losing their child & wife losing her husband due to the consumption of illicit liquor. DMK has not learnt their lesson after the 22 hooch deaths last year & their misgovernance has led to 5 more deaths today. There is zero accountability in the DMK Govt & Ministers do not fear consequences for posing with illicit liquor sellers.”

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The hooch tragedy

According to the government, more than 20 people, who complained of vomiting and stomach pain were admitted to the Kallakurichi Medical College Hospital on Wednesday.

Following a probe by police and revenue officials, it was suspected that they had consumed “packet arrack”.

Meanwhile, three of those who died had been identified as G Praveen Kumar (26), D Suresh (40), and K Sekar (59).

Their bodies had been sent for autopsy and the cause of death would be determined in a post-mortem examination.

Requisite medicine and special teams of government doctors from Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, and Salem have been rushed to the Kallakurichi hospital to assist and supervise treatment.

A senior official from the Health Department has also been deputed to the location.

Meanwhile, as many as 18 people have been referred to Puducherry’s Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER) Hospital for specialty treatment, and six others to Salem government hospital.

As many as 12 ambulances have been stationed at the Kallakurichi government hospital.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal, with PTI inputs)

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