Connecting Communities, One Page at a Time.

Methanol-tainted hooch in Tamil Nadu's Kallakurichi leaves 47 dead, exposing liquor regulation failures

A judicial commission of inquiry, led by former Madras High Court Judge B Gokuldas, has been established to investigate the incident, with a report due within three months.

Prabhav Anand 21 June 2024 12:28

People mourn the deaths of their family members due to the consumption of spurious liquor in Kallakurichi district on June 20, 2024. At least thirty-four people from Kallakurichi district have died in the tragedy.

People mourn the deaths of their family members due to the consumption of spurious liquor in Kallakurichi district on June 20, 2024. At least thirty-four people from Kallakurichi district have died in the tragedy.

In one of the most severe hooch disasters in recent memory, at least 47 individuals, including several women, have died, and almost 100 others are fighting for their lives after drinking methanol-laced illicit liquor in Kallakurichi, a town roughly 200 kilometers from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The tragedy happened on June 20, marking one of the deadliest hooch incidents in recent memory.

The victims, predominantly from economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized Dalit communities in Kallakurichi and nearby villages, began flooding the Kallakurichi Government Medical College Hospital late Wednesday night.

The hospital was quickly overwhelmed, with patients arriving in mini lorries and autorickshaws.

Those requiring emergency hemodialysis were redirected to the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry, where three succumbed.

Additional fatalities were reported at the Government Medical College Hospitals in Villupuram and Salem.

In response to the tragedy, the Tamil Nadu government took swift action. Kallakurichi’s Superintendent of Police, Samay Singh Meena, was immediately suspended, and District Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath was transferred.

Several police officials and members of the Prohibition Enforcement Wing (PEW) faced suspension or transfer pending investigation for their alleged dereliction of duty.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin expressed deep shock and directed the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police to the scene, issuing strict orders to apprehend those responsible.

Concurrently, the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) has taken over the case for a thorough investigation.

The Chief Minister also announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those hospitalized.

Ministers Udayanidhi Stalin, K Ponmudi, E.V. Velu, and Ma Subramaniyan have been overseeing emergency medical care, post-mortem procedures, and the transportation of victims' bodies.

Karunapuram in Kallakurichi, the epicenter of the tragedy where 19 deaths occurred, is shrouded in mourning. Home to around 10,000 Dalits, mostly daily laborers, the community is grappling with the sudden loss. One street alone saw three deaths, including two from a single family.

A relative of a 50-year-old victim shared that many locals resorted to illicit brew due to the rising prices of government-sanctioned liquor. The cheaper, more potent illicit brew offered a temporary escape from their daily hardships.

The main accused, Govindaraj, a known bootlegger with 22 previous cases, was arrested along with his wife and brother.

Govindaraj reportedly operated just outside town limits, highlighting a potential nexus between local law enforcement and the illicit trade.

Authorities are now seeking the methanol supplier, as preliminary lab reports confirmed methanol contamination in the brew.

Tragically, many victims missed the critical "golden hour" for treatment, misinterpreting symptoms like dizziness and blurred vision as typical effects of alcohol consumption.

Despite the availability of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) through government-run TASMAC outlets, illicit moonshine remains a persistent problem in Tamil Nadu.

This tragic incident highlights a recurring issue in Tamil Nadu—illicit liquor. The State has a long history of hooch tragedies, reflecting ongoing regulatory failures and the lethal risks associated with illegal alcohol production and consumption. Below is a timeline of significant hooch incidents in Tamil Nadu over the past 15 years:

May 2008: Known as the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu alcohol poisonings, this tragedy claimed 148 lives. Illicit liquor made with camphor and tobacco resulted in the deaths of 41 people in Tamil Nadu and 107 in Karnataka.

The Tamil Nadu government suspended 21 police officers. In Bangalore, a key figure in the illicit liquor network was arrested, while the main supplier committed suicide.

2009: According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 429 people in Tamil Nadu died due to consuming illicit alcohol.

2011: NCRB reported 481 deaths in Tamil Nadu from illicit liquor consumption.

2016-2019: During this period, the NCRB database recorded no deaths from illicit liquor in Tamil Nadu, suggesting a temporary decline in such incidents.

2020: The NCRB data showed a resurgence, with 20 deaths attributed to hooch consumption.

May 2023: Ten people lost their lives after consuming illicit liquor (six in Marakkanam and four in Perambakkam). Two individuals were arrested in Chengalpattu in connection with these deaths.

These incidents underscore the persistent challenge of illicit brewing in Tamil Nadu, despite the presence of government-run TASMAC outlets for legal alcohol sales.

The State's struggle with unregulated liquor continues to cause significant loss of life, emphasizing the need for more effective enforcement and preventive measures.

Activists are now calling for more robust enforcement and the addition of deterrents like bittering agents to methanol to prevent such tragedies.

One activist demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry, underscoring the need for comprehensive reform to avert future calamities.

The Kallakurichi incident starkly reveals the urgent need for effective regulation and enforcement to safeguard vulnerable communities from the lethal dangers of illicit alcohol.


Also Read

    Latest News


    Also Read

    Latest News


    Loading ...