“The death toll in Batala has now reached 13 with one more person dying on Sunday,” Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ishfaq said.
The maximum 80 deaths have been reported from Tarn Taran district, followed by 13 in Gurdaspur’s Batala and 12 in Amritsar. The tragedy has been unfolding since Wednesday evening.
According to officials, 10 people who had consumed spurious liquor are undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Tarn Taran.
Meanwhile, BJP’s national secretary Tarun Chugh slammed the Congress government in the state, holding it responsible for the tragedy.
Chugh sought a probe by a sitting judge of the high court into the case while rejecting the magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government. He also met families of the victims in Batala.
Lambasting the state government, the BJP leader said the tragedy has “exposed” the anti-drug drive of the state government.
“The government waited for the tragedy to happen rather than taking timely acting against culprits,” he told mediapersons in Batala.
Activists of the SAD’s Youth Akali Dal also staged a dharna in Tarn Taran against the government.
Led by YAD chief Parambans Singh Romana, they alleged that some Congress MLAs were “patronising the illicit liquor trade”.
Romana sought the registration of an FIR against them and said the Shiromani Akali Dal will continue its protest till action was taken against the culprits.
“We request the government to take heed or we will be forced to launch an agitation against the legislators as well as the chief minister,” he said.
The protesters demanded a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for each of the families of the deceased.
Meanwhile, Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi ridiculed the SAD for blaming the state government for the hooch tragedy.
“It was nothing but pot calling the kettle black as similar incidents had occurred in 2012 and 2016 in Gurdaspur and Batala, respectively, during their regime,” said Sodhi in an official statement.
Sodhi said in the Batala case, neither a FIR was registered nor any action taken against the main accused.
Sensing the gravity of matter, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh immediately ordered a magisterial inquiry by a divisional commissioner, who has been asked to submit his report within a month, the minister said.
The chief minister had earlier suspended seven excise officials and six policemen.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said this is not the time to “derive mileage and score political brownie points”. The occasion demands that all political parties come together on a single platform and present a united front, he said.