By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 19 Sep: Uttarakhand continues to make headlines with regard to deaths caused by consumption of hooch. Tragedy struck yet again, today, when 7 persons died after consuming illicit liquor, while another 6 have fallen sick. All the tall claims of the state and the district administration fell flat today when this tragic incident yet again exposed the apathy of the government as well as the administration on the issue. The incident occurred in Patharia Veer on Nashville Road in the heart of the capital. Contrary to all the government claims, it was clear once again that the sale of illicit liquor in the state continues unabated. Apart from the death of six people, some people were also admitted to the hospital in an unconscious state. The incident enraged the local people so much that they gathered in large numbers and gheraoed the residence of local BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi and staged a protest. The affected families claimed that they had been complaining for long about the continuing sale of illicit liquor in the area but the administration did not bother to take any action. While the government has summoned a report from Commissioner, Excise, Sushil Kumar in the matter, a big question also arises regarding the role of the police in the area. It is a matter of common knowledge that trade of illicit liquor can’t go on without the patronage of the local police. Meanwhile, Principal Secretary, Excise, Anand Vardhan said that information had been sought from the officials about the case and that strict action would be taken against whoever was found guilty. It may also be recalled that more than forty persons had died last year in Roorkee after consuming illicit liquor and the government had then claimed that it was serious about curbing the trade. However, the fact is that those officials who had then been suspended were later reinstated and, not only this, were also given plum postings. There have been some recent reports of serious financial irregularities by the Excise officials, but the government has so far chosen to remain a mute spectator. Recently, on the directions of the Dehradun DM, some liquor shops were raided for reportedly overcharging the customers and the reports were found to be true. However, no strict action was taken against the officials or the liquor vendors, despite the confirmation. The Excise Department continues to ignore all complaints against the liquor vendors. It remains to be seen what action is taken in this case against the erring excise and police officials.