Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Slugfest continues over ex gratia to Saran hooch death victims

JD(U) parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha on Sunday termed as “irresponsible”, the BJP’s demand for ex gratia to family members of Saran hooch tragedy in Bihar. Kushwaha, a key political aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, also drew the analogy of the manufacture of bombs to underscore that a government cannot stand for those engaging in illegal activities. “If somebody is manufacturing a bomb, illegally, and gets killed in the process, does it make a case for government compensation”? asked the former Union minister, when approached by journalists with queries.
At least 30 people have died in the Saran hooch tragedy, the biggest in the state since prohibition was clamped on it in April 2016. Many unconfirmed reports, however, put the death toll in excess of 50. Kushwaha said, “An opposition party must not raise demands mindlessly. The way the BJP has been behaving is irresponsible (gair zimmedarana)”. The BJP, which is in the opposition since August, has been stalling the ongoing winter session of the assembly and hitting the streets demanding compensation for the victims of the hooch tragedy. The chief minister has, however, been adamant in his refusal, pointing out that compensation would defeat the very purpose of prohibition, which was brought in through a consensus among all parties, after a vociferous demand from the state’s women. Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who had been Kumar’s deputy for more than a decade, told a press conference that his former boss was being obstinate and that there was a provision in the prohibition law for compensation to victims of a hooch tragedy.
Quoting from a section in the Bihar Excise Act of 2016, whereby the state went dry, Modi, now a Rajya Sabha member, claimed that family members of those dying of suspected spurious liquor consumption could be considered for an ex-gratia of Rs four lakh each while those who take ill can get Rs 40,000.
The former deputy chief minister also alleged, “The number of deaths is more than 100 in Saran where the government is busy trying to hide the figures. The administration is intimidating the people so that they cremate bodies without a post-mortem”.

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