Aligarh: Eleven people died on Friday and some more were taken ill after allegedly consuming spurious liquor sold by a licensed vendor here, a senior official said.
The authorities have ordered a magisterial probe into the incident and suspend five excise officials while four people, including the liquor vend owner, have been arrested.
The inquiry will be conducted by an additional district magistrate-rank officer, DM Chandra Bhushan Singh told mediapersons.
The administration is likely to invoke the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against those found guilty, he said.
Confirming the 11 deaths, the DM said information about other people who had consumed liquor bought from the same vendor is trickling in.
DIG Dipak Kumar said the Lodha police station was informed in the morning about the death of two people after consuming country-made liquor bought from a vendor in Karsia.
The victims were truck drivers who had gathered at a gas depot on the Aligarh-Tapaal highway for work, he said.
However, when police and senior district officials reached the spot, they were told that six more people belonging to Karsia and adjoining villages had died, the DIG said, adding that the bodies were sent for a post-mortem examination.
Some of those taken ill were rushed to the district hospital, from where they were shifted to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital at Aligarh Muslim University.
The liquor shop has been sealed and samples have been collected for testing.
Four people, including the owner of the liquor vend at Andla, have been arrested, police said.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kalanidhi Naithani said six police teams are combing villages to trace victims and and help people get medical assistance.
“Among those arrested included an associate of the owner and two of his sales assistants. They are being interrogated,” the SSP said.
Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary (Excise) Sanjay Bhoosreddy said District Excise Officer Dheeraj Sharma; Excise Inspectors Rajesh Kumar Yadav and Chandraprakash Yadav; Head Constable Ashok Kumar; and Constable Ram Raj Rana have been suspended with immediate effect.
A departmental action has also been initiated against them, he added.
According to locals, people had started falling sick on Thursday.
Many others from neighbouring villages had also consumed the liquor, they added.
Meanwhile, family members of the victims were seen crying at Karsia and Andla villages.
Andla village head Om Dutt said apart from those who died, a large number of people were taken ill after consuming spurious liquor since Thursday afternoon.
He alleged that widespread reports suggested a racket behind spurious liquor.
The vice-president of the Youth Congress in UP, Gorang Dev Chauhan, demanded that all liquor vends in the state be closed.
Chauhan in a statement said that it is ironical that while shops and other vital commercial establishments remain closed during the coronavirus lockdown, liquor vends have been exempted.
He said the tragic incident has been caused by “flawed priorities” of the state government and demanded a high-level probe into the “racket” of spurious liquor.