An uneasy calm prevails in Halomira, Merapani, Titabor and Borholla Tea Garden areas of Assam’s Jorhat and Gologhat districts following a highly tragic incident that has taken place in recent time as more than 180 people died by consuming spurious chulai (hooch) or country liquor and more than 300 people had fallen seriously ill and shifted to hospitals since February 21.
A visit to the four affected tea garden areas is to witness and encounter a deep heart-wrenching atmosphere that left a trail of tragic incidents all around and a pathetic sight of devastated families losing their near and dear while death continues to hunt. At the cremation grounds, bodies being burn in rows which continues to come at every other hour with tears rolling from the eyes of their family members with screaming and chest beating – a horrible tear socked sight!
As reported many patients are still in critical condition, so there seem endless body bags awaiting which is yet to arrive for performing the last rites.
The deceased and those ailing mostly belong to tea garden workers’ community of Halomira and Merapani Tea Garden areas of Jorhat district while Titabor and Borhola Tea Garden areas of Golaghat district. More than 200 ailing persons were admitted in Jorhat Medical College while another around 100 victims of consuming spurious country liquor were shifted to Kushal Kunwar Civil Hospital of Golaghat in critical condition.
Deeply shaken by the tragic incident, Assam government swung into action and clamped a ban on manufacturing and selling of chulai across the state while excise department and police destroyed a thousand liters of country liquor and booked more than 40 persons for allegedly running the trade of chulai (liquor) within few days.
Official toll, however, 150 till February 24, of which 92 died in Golaghat and 58 in Jorhat. However, the rush of ailing persons to the hospitals has gradually come down since February 25, an official source in Jorhat informed.
When contacted by Associate Editor, Bijoy Kumar Sharma of Eastern Panorama, Pullak Dutta of Jorhat informed that it was now clear beyond any doubt that this illegal liquor trade was flourishing in rural areas, especially near Tea gardens under the nose of district excise department, and that had led to death of over 180 people in Jorhat and Golaghat districts.
On how it all has happened, Dutta said, “The significant point is that the excise department is totally ill-equipped to carry out raids in the set-ups where these illicit liquors are brewed mostly located in inaccessible areas. He continued on the reasons of Assam’s biggest tragic incident and opined that things have turned out to be worse after Assam government closed the legalized Assam Excise liquor dens and started selling these products throughout wine shops. Previously these Assam Excise liquor dens were located in rural areas mostly near tea gardens, he added.
He also alleged that the owners of these liquor dens used to grease the palms of the local police to carry out raids on illegal liquor dens so that their product sells more, so when the Assam excise liquor stores were closed down, the illegal liquor dens started flourishing.
Bijoy Kumar Sharma
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