High cost of liquor driving people to consume sanitizers; death count goes up

Gali Nagaraja

Amaravati: Tipplers in Andhra Pradesh, inaccessible to liquor for different reasons, invented a new route at times of the coronavirus pandemic in Andhra Pradesh. In a desperate bid to get high, they found a substitute in hand sanitizers for liquor at the expense of their precious lives. The police are clueless on how sanitizer consumption proved to be fatal for several people across the state.

Four persons in Tirupati on Friday died after consuming hand sanitizers. In a similar way 13 persons lost their lives in Kurichedu of Prakasam district a week ago.

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Reports suggest that the tipplers mix sanitizer with either soft drink or water and consumed it as they were out of reach liquor economically.

Prakasam district Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal told reporters that the police could not establish the accurate causative factors without receiving post-mortem reports. Alarmed by a series of deaths, the government went in an overdrive by conducting surprise raids on medical shops accused of selling spurious hand sanitizers in different parts of the state.

Hand sanitizers are made with the combination of spirit and glycerin. Higher the content of spirit, more the intoxication levels for the consumers. “Even if sanitizers made with the two ingredients are consumed, the spirit is not such harmful to take the lives of consumers. Fatalities happen only when harmful chemicals are used in the process of making sanitizers,” says KPN Satyanaprasad, a medical practitioner based in West Godavari’s Bhimavaram.

Price hike 

The opposition parties blamed the government’s “flawed” liquor policy for the incidence of sanitizer deaths. The YSR Congress government increased the retail prices of liquor products of all brands by 75 percent with a claim to achieve twin objectives—discouraging liquor consumption and net additional revenue. Before the price hike the state used to get Rs 12,000 crore annually in the form of excise duties. The government planned to take the revenue targets up to Rs 20,000crore by increasing the prices of liquor products.

CPI (M) state secretary Ch. Babu Rao said the government failed to achieve the desired objectives by increasing the prices. Liquor with low rates is getting smuggled from the neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Telangana, making a dent in the state’s revenues. In addition, boot legging has become rampant, Rao said. Guzzlers even resorted to consume sanitizer due to their inability to buy liquor with higher prices, he said. When consumption of sanitizer took the lives of 17 people in Tirupati and Kurichedu, at least 40-50 people lost their lives in a similar way in the last four months in different parts of the state, unofficial reports said.

Family incomes fell drastically as an effect of the pandemic crippling the economy. With no adequate money on hand to buy high-cost liquor, the poor tipplers allegedly have taken to hand sanitizers.

Jagan aims for prohibition 

Dr Satyaprasad recalled consumption of syrups blended with spirit by tipplers during the days of prohibition slapped by NTR government in 1994. Syrups with 30 percent of spirit flooded the medical stores and alcoholics purchased it in the guise of patients. Licenses of several medical shops found selling syrups with high content of spirit were cancelled after raids conducted by the prohibition committees.

Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress’ delivered an election promise to reintroduce total prohibition in the first three years after it came to power. Increasing the prices of liquor products, eliminating private traders from the business of retail sales and downsizing the number of outlets are a part of the government’s bigger plans for prohibition in phased manners. However, the opposition TDP alleged that the government’s new liquor policy gave scope for an unholy alliance between the liquor manufacturing companies and the top guns in the government leading to a deep-rooted scam.

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