In Hooch Tragedy-Hit Tamil Nadu Village, Queue Of Bodies At Cremation Ground

This is the second such tragedy in the state in as many years.


A pall of gloom has descended over Karunapuram village in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi district. As many as 24 of the 39 who have died after consuming illicit liquor are from here. A mass cremation is taking place, and many bodies are still lined up.

A mother who lost her son is inconsolable. “He complained of severe stomach ache and could not open his eyes. Initially, they didn’t even admit him saying he is drunk. The government should shut down liquor shops,” she wailed. 

At least one hundred people are being treated in various hospitals. At the Kallakurichi Government Medical College Hospital, many are battling breathlessness and loss of vision, and experiencing excruciating pain.

This is the second such tragedy in two years. Last year, 22 were killed after consuming methanol, but critics say the state government seems to have learnt no lessons. 

After the latest incident, the district superintendent of police and several police officers have been suspended and the Collector has been transferred. Chief Minister MK Stalin has said he will clampdown on the illicit liquor trade with an iron hand. 

Three suspected bootleggers have been arrested and they have a criminal history. The police are on the lookout for the alleged kingpin, Chinnadurai, who allegedly supplied the distilled arrack that caused the deaths. 

The opposition has demanded the resignation of Mr Stalin, alleging collusion by cadre of the ruling DMK. They have also blamed the police and asked if there was an intelligence failure. 

AIADMK Chief Edappadi K Palaniswamy said, “Chief Minister Stalin should resign. This is incompetence. He gives an excuse every time”.

Taking a different tack, K Annamalai, president of the Tamil Nadu BJP, added, “The state government should close at least a thousand liquor shops.”

Mr Stalin did not visit the affected areas but sent ministers, including his son Udhayanidhi. Calling the incident painful and sad, he assured a crackdown and announced a one-man commission to conduct an inquiry into the accident. The home secretary and the DGP are expected to submit a report in two days.

The sale of liquor by Tamil Nadu government fetches a whopping Rs 40,000 crore in revenue. That indicates the level of alcohol addiction in the state. In the past, the DMK had argued that total prohibition would only open the floodgates of illicit liquor. Now, many are asking if it is time for a relook at the alcohol policy.