Deaths in the worst-ever hooch tragedy in West Bengal continued unabated on Friday with the toll touching 171 amidst fears of more casualties as authorities suspended the excise officer-in-charge for dereliction of duty.
The Officer-in-charge of Excise department in Diamond Harbour, Radheshyam Pande, was suspended on charge of dereliction of duty, South 24-Parganas district police superintendent L N Meena said.
According to the Chief Medical Officer (Health) S Adhikary, the killer hooch claimed 171 lives in Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital, M R Bangur hospital and at National Medical college and hospital.
She said that nearly 90 victims were still under treatment in the hospitals where condition of some was critical.
Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting C M Jatua said that he had shot off a letter to the Commissioner of Excise three months ago, calling for action against mushrooming of liquor joints in Sangrampur and other areas of the district. "No action has been taken so far," Jatua told PTI.
The CMO(H) said that Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital, where most of the victims were admitted, alone accounted for 121 deaths, followed by 44 in M R Bangur hospital and six in National medical college and hospital.
She said that blood samples of the victims had been sent to Belgachia laboratory by forensic experts. Police said that 12 arrests were so far made but the kingpin of the hooch racket Khonra Badshah was still absconding.
Meanwhile, a CID team, led by Deputy Inspector General, CID (operations) K Jayraman, visited Sangrampur and adjacent villages as also hospitals to talk to the victims as part of the inquiry process into the hooch tragedy.
The hooch victims included labourers, rickshaw pullers and hawkers.
Postmortem on 141 bodies have been done and the bodies handed over to the respective families, police said.
Police said that 12-year-old Raju Laskar, who took a glass of killer hooch out of fun mistaking it a glass of water, died at the M R Bangur hospital on Thursday night.
Health department sources said doctors, nurses, and para-medical staff whose leaves were cancelled were working overtime to attend the hooch victims.
The victims fell ill after consuming spurious liquor from several illegal joints on Tuesday night. Preliminary investigations suggest that the deaths occurred due to methyl alcohol toxicity which led to respiratory and cardiac failure.
Meanwhile, locals on Friday dismantled many liquor joints in Mograhat, Usthi and nearby areas in the district. Excise department personnel broke hundreds of hooch bottles and destroyed the shanties in North 24-parganas district.