BHUBANESWAR: Justice A S Naidu Commission of inquiry into hooch tragedy in Khurda and Cuttack districts in February has observed that there is no fault or dereliction of duty on the part of Excise Department. At least 41 persons had died after consuming spurious liquor laced with medicinal formulations.
The commission said in its interim report that the blame for the tragedy cannot be put on the Excise Department alone as no material pointing out any lapses has been presented before it as yet. However, it maintained that the department should have been more vigilant.
The Excise Department had, in fact, acted in accordance with law and issued notification for conducting raids and detecting spurious medicines containing high percentage of alcohol, which are used as cheap substitute for liquor, but it failed to implement it because of a stay order of the Orissa High Court, it said.
The commission maintained that the deaths were caused due to consumption of Epeecarm Carminative, Cinnamon Water and Orange Tincture containing methyl alcohol. Stating that methyl alcohol was the cause of the tragic incident, Justice Naidu said affidavits as well as statements received give an impression that the killer hooch was being marketed dead cheap in the guise of medicines.
“The averments of the affidavits filed before the commission give an impression that the deaths were caused due to consumption of medicinal substances and that too out of sealed bottles containing spurious and adulterated drugs/liquor,” it said.
The panel recommended that in consonance with Section 26-A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the State Government should move the Centre to restrict, regulate or prohibit drugs and pharmacopoeia preparations containing high percentage of alcohol.
Stating that methyl alcohol and other adulterants are commonly mixed with liquor or medicines to earn high profits, the commission said the sale of such products should be controlled.
It said the enforcement squad of the drug controller should be reinforced. Also steps should be taken by the Drug Control Department for strict compliance of the condition of licences under the Drugs and Cosmetic Rule, 1945, before fixing price for patent or proprietary medicine like Epeecarm and Ginger Tincture.
The commission recommended inspection of liquor factory premises and sale counters as well as pharmaceutical laboratories jointly by officers of Drug Control, Excise Department and police. Steps should also be taken to close down all the unauthorised and unlicensed shops where medicine is sold in a clandestine manner, it said.
The then Excise minister A U Singhdeo had resigned taking moral responsibility for the hooch tragedy.