Daily Wage Workers Fall Prey to Illicit Liquor in Tamil Nadu's Kallakurichi, 37 Dead

The government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those undergoing treatment in hospitals.
The exorbitant prices of legal liquor sold through Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) outlets have pushed economically disadvantaged people toward dangerous, illegal options.
The exorbitant prices of legal liquor sold through Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) outlets have pushed economically disadvantaged people toward dangerous, illegal options.Shabbir Ahmed/X handle

Kallakurichi, Tamil Nadu – A devastating tragedy has struck Kallakurichi as 37 men, mostly hailing from the scheduled caste and tribe communities, have lost their lives and over 100 individuals are currently hospitalized after consuming illicit liquor tainted with high levels of methanol. The tainted liquor was allegedly sold by associates of a local MLA, exacerbating the outrage and grief within the community.

In Karunapuram, 10 deaths have been reported, originating from a single street primarily inhabited by the "Kaattu Naicken" tribe (ST).

The victims, many of whom were sole breadwinners for their households, leave their families in profound shock, grappling with the irreplaceable loss and uncertain future.

The opposition has vehemently criticized the government, calling for the resignation of the Chief Minister, citing the unabated flourishing of the spurious liquor trade as the root cause of this heartbreaking incident.

Following the disaster, the District Collector of Kallakurichi has been reassigned, and ten officials, including a DSP, have been suspended.

The alleged perpetrator, Chinnadurai, responsible for the illicit liquor, has been apprehended, with 200 litres of the toxic substance seized for investigation. The CM, in a press release, stated that four persons have been arrested so far and investigation is underway to find those involved in supplying methanol for the production of the spurious liquor. Further, officials have also been directed to find the reserve of methanol supply, if any, and destroy it.

 The government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those undergoing treatment in hospitals.

Statement from Chief Minister M.K. Stalin

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin addressed the Kallakurichi incident on social media, expressing his deep sorrow and outlining the government's response. He wrote on X:

"The Kallakurichi incident, which has caused me so much pain, is something that should not have happened. I am monitoring all the steps being taken. High-quality treatment is being provided to those undergoing treatment in the hospital. I have also announced financial assistance to the families of the deceased. Hon'ble Ministers, the Home Secretary, the Director of Police, and other officials are visiting in person and monitoring the activities. I have ordered the establishment of a one-man committee headed by retired High Court Justice Shri B. Gokuldas."

The incident came to light when numerous individuals began exhibiting severe symptoms of methanol poisoning, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and vision loss.

According to a TNM report, On June 19, news came in initially of four deaths in Karunapuram due to alcohol poisoning. The death toll rapidly rose to 33 overnight.

The victims, primarily Dalits and daily wage laborers, were rushed to hospitals in Kallakurichi, Salem, and JIPMER in Puducherry. The severity of the situation necessitated the urgent mobilization of 48 additional doctors to aid in the treatment of the affected individuals.

Aggrieved family members of the deceased men.
Aggrieved family members of the deceased men. Shabbir Ahmed/X handle

Authorities have seized 200 liters of the illicit substance, which is now under investigation to determine the exact methanol content and the supply chain involved.

In response to the crisis, the Tamil Nadu government swiftly deployed seven SPs and 1000 police personnel to Kallakurichi.

Health Minister M. Subramaniam emphasized the severity of the situation, attributing the deaths to the hazardous levels of methanol found in the liquor. He pledged a thorough investigation and assured stringent actions against those accountable. Criticism from State Governor R.N. Ravi and opposition parties has intensified, accusing the ruling DMK Government of negligence.

The Tamil Nadu government announced compensation measures, including Rs. 10 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 for each person receiving medical treatment in government hospitals.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin expressed condolences and vowed decisive action against the illicit liquor trade. He convened with senior ministers and officials to establish an inquiry commission, ensuring all necessary support and care was provided to the victims.

This tragedy underscores a significant socio-economic issue: the high cost of government-sold liquor, which drives many to consume cheaper, illicit alternatives. The exorbitant prices of legal liquor sold through Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) outlets have pushed economically disadvantaged people toward dangerous, illegal options.

This situation is exacerbated by the increasing addiction to alcohol in Tamil Nadu, where the government is heavily reliant on revenue from TASMAC sales. The illicit liquor trade thrives in this environment, emboldened by corruption and the lack of strict enforcement.

Local women have voiced their concerns, stating that such problems have escalated since the DMK came to power. They also highlight how the hooch mafia operates with impunity, delivering toxic liquor door-to-door in plastic packets, resembling water packets, and even targeting young boys aged 13-15. There are reports of drug consumption among youth in the area, further indicating a broader substance abuse issue.

Actor Vijay, founder of the political party Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam, blamed government negligence for the tragic incident and demanded stringent precautionary measures to prevent such occurrences in the future. In a tweet, he stated: "The fact that such an incident has occurred again shows the indifference of the government administration when it has not yet fully recovered from the tragedy of losing many lives due to the same incident last year."

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly on Thursday paid tributes to the victims who died after consuming spurious liquor in Kallakurichi.

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