PATNA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has blamed the authorities in Bihar for “suppressing the death toll” in the hooch tragedy in Saran and Siwan districts in December 2022, saying at least 77 people had died in the incident as against the government’s figure of 42 deaths.
A 13-member team of NHRC, which probed the hooch tragedy, has also observed that “deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor have become part of the law and order landscape of Bihar ever since prohibition was enforced in the state in 2016.”
The report, which was recently uploaded on the NHRC website, dismissed claims of the state government that 42 people had died in the tragedy during December 13-16 last year, stating that at least 77 lives were lost. The report also accused the state government and the Saran district administration of “suppressing” the casualty figures and minimising the extent of tragedy by “not registering or recognising such deaths that were caused by spurious liquor by not conducting post-mortem examination or accepting requests for not doing so, or ascribing the deaths to extraneous factors”.
The report stated that the NHRC had taken cognisance of a report published in Hindustan Times, dated December 15, which mentioned that “the toll is likely to rise as some of the victims are in a critical condition”.
The report further said that in addition to the deaths, seven people had lost their eyesight in the hooch tragedy.
“Nearly 80% of the deceased were in the productive working age of 21-60 years and 75% of them were scheduled castes and OBCs,” it said. “The liquor, which caused this human tragedy, seems to have originated from a common source and all the victims hailed from a compact geographical area around the jurisdiction of Masrakh police station.”
The report also termed “unfair” the state government’s decision to not provide compensation to the families of the deceased.
“This apathy of the state government was apparently premised on the belief that the victims of the liquor tragedy do not deserve any sympathy or support because they violated the Prohibition Act,” it said. “This view evidently ignores the fact that of 18 families of the deceased need compensation or relief because they are the actual victims (in the sense that they have lost an earning member of their family) even though they did not commit any crime.”
Former Union minister and senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who represents Saran in the Lok Sabha, told HT that the NHRC report has made it clear that the state government tried to suppress the figures. “The government had cremated the bodies of 33 persons without any post-mortem examination. Majority of the deceased were labourers, farmers, driver and rickshaw pullers,” he said. “Many people have also lost their eyesight after consuming spurious liquor.”
Bihar chief secretary Amir Subhani said: “The Bihar government is yet to receive the NHRC enquiry committee report.”