Kolkata: At least nine persons have died allegedly after consuming spurious country liquor in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district, a senior state official said on Tuesday.
"According to the preliminary report, around nine people have died and a few others have fallen ill since yesterday (March 20) after allegedly consuming spurious country liquor in South 24 Parganas district's Canning and Baruipur areas," said B.R. Satpathy, Director of state health services.
"Our departmental team has reached the spot to inspect the impact on people's health," he added.
The locals, however, claimed that around 14 persons had died over a week after consuming country liquor from the local shops. The shops were running for years under the nose of the police but no action had been taken, they alleged.
"Fourteen persons, all of whom were more or less addicted to country liquor, have died in the last one week in the area. Most of them used to frequent those shops. We are sure the reason of death is nothing but poisonous liquor," said a local resident.
Following the death of three persons on Tuesday morning, a mob ransacked and torched the roadside liquor shops at Baruipur's Gholabazar and demanded that the administration take action against the illicit hooch trade.
"My father was addicted to country liquor. He fell ill yesterday after drinking heavily from this shop and passed away in the evening. We want police to act against the traders," an agitator demanded.
But police said only the post-mortem report can ascertain the reasons for the deaths and that it had been conducting frequent raids in the area.
"Police do not have the report of nine deaths in the area. We have received only one body that has been sent for autopsy. Whether he died after consuming liquor or not can be ascertained only after seeing the report," a senior officer from Baruipur police station said.
"We do frequent inspections and raid these shops. Five people have been arrested since yesterday for selling liquor without proper licence," he added.