ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Killer Mix

Illicit liquor kills the poor, but most culpable is the short-sighted excise policy.

The 103 deaths from consuming spurious liquor in Mumbai recently have left behind overwhelming devastation for their families as well as the larger neighbourhood where the tragedy occurred. The lack of a decisive and cohesive response from the state government has added to the misery. Such a response is hardly new. As in the past, statements are made to assuage enraged public opinion, but there is little thought given to work out sustainable solutions. Deaths caused by illicit liquor periodically grab public attention all over the country. The death toll varies; what remains constant is the poverty of the victims and the callousness of governments.

Mumbai has witnessed, far too often, similar mass deaths from illicit liquor. In 2004, 87 people died from consuming a deadly mix of methanol and alcohol. In the latest incident, a number of local policemen have been arrested and so have the vendors of the liquor. While mainstream media has covered the tragedy, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has demanded death penalty for the guilty. Will the situation really change even if those respon­sible are given exemplary punishment? The previous Congress–Nationalist Congress Party government had made Section 65 of the Bombay Prohibition Act a non-bailable offence with imprisonment ranging from six months to three years. Yet, the accused in such cases manage to get bail and easily return to business as usual.

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