The number of those dead after consuming liquor in Malwani has increased to 94 as the police continued the manhunt for four bootleggers said to be involved in the illicit business.
The hooch tragedy, which resulted in 94 deaths, is said to be the worst in over a decade in Maharashtra.
“94 people have died, 35 are under treatment. Teams have been sent to investigate the matter,” said additional Commissioner FS Patil on Malwani Hooch tragedy.
Besides 94 deaths, 45 more are under treatment in various government and private hospitals since the past four days.
These people had consumed liquor at a country liquor bar in Malwani on Wednesday night.
The Crime Branch, which is probing the incident, has launched a manhunt across Mumbai and its surroundings for at least four bootleggers who are said to be the kingpins of the illicit liquor trade.
Police have so far nabbed around 20 people in connection with the incident.
The Police Department had initiated a process to transfer Patil on promotion as Assistant Commissioner of Police to Ahmednagar, 400 km from Mumbai, before his links with the liquor racket came to light. Police are on the lookout for a woman referred to as Akka in local circles, who is suspected to be the mastermind behind the spurious liquor business in the area. They have arrested her accomplice Raju Langda and three others, however, Akka managed to flee.
Mumbai police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner of Police Dhananjay Kulkarni confirmed the death toll.
The Lakshmi Nagar slum in Malad, where the spurious liquor was sold, is a den of illegal activities. The residents are labourers and construction workers. Many of them are from Gulbarga in Karnataka.
A source claimed that miscommunication between the state’s Excise Department and police could have played an important role in the tragedy. The Excise Department, which was surveilling the illegal liquor business in Lakshmi Nagar, had in 2014 noted Akka’s virtual monopoly in running the racket, but did not share the information with the police. “The hooch sold in Lakshmi Nagar was made in Thane,” an Excise Department official said. “We have found that it was manufactured in neighbouring Thane district and later dispatched to Malad in rubber tubes. The low price of the liquor is the reason why it had so many consumers,” the official added.
“If the alleged nexus between our officials and the criminals is indeed true, I will take action against the concerned staffers and terminate their service. I will not allow anyone to cover up the truth,” Khadse said.
Meanwhile, Mumbai police have launched a house-to-house search in the Laxmi Nagar slum and other areas to ascertain if anybody had visited or bought liquor from there and consumed it.
At least eight such people were detected on Sunday and were taken to hospitals.
In December, 2004, 87 people have died in two such incidents in Mumbai.