31 die in Panruti hooch tragedy
By M. Balaganessin
CUDDALORE, NOV. 30. In the third major hooch tragedy in the last two months, 31 persons, including a woman bootlegger, from hamlets in and around Melarungunam in Panruti taluk in Cuddalore district died today after consuming spurious liquor.
According to sources in the Government Headquarters hospital here, 30 out of 184 persons admitted there lost their eyesight.
Villagers from Nattham, Rayapalyam, Manamthavizhndhaputhur were also admitted to the hospital.
There was considerable delay in organising relief measures as the villagers buried the body of the first victim, Rajendran, who died on Wednesday, without realising the cause of the death.
A woman dealer, Chinnaponnu (50) of Melarungunam, was also among the early casualties. According to the Cuddalore Superintendent of Police, Mr. S. Davidson Devasirvatham, the problem started when the women dealers, including Chinnaponnu and Ananthayi, shifted three days ago to a ``new brand'' brought from Pondicherry by one Murugan. Efforts were being taken, with the assistance of the Pondicherry police, to arrest Murugan.
The women dealers assessed the ``quality of the liquor'' through a cross-section of four villagers. While two of them were happy about the purity, two others found a ``pesticide-like'' taste. Samples of the viscera and blood of the dead had been sent to the Forensic Science department in Villupuram, the SP said.
One inspector, Mr. Sangeswaran, and two sub- inspectors, Mr. Chandrasekaran and Mr. Radhakrishnan, were placed under suspension and the entire Prohibition Enforcement Wing in Cuddalore district was restructured, the DIG, Mr. M. Chidambarasamy, said.
The Pondicherry arrack had been much sought after by the villagers in the last two days, especially among those who had come to participate in the Rajendran funeral. These villagers were the first to be affected.
The fact that the brew was a slow killer came to light when a number of villagers who had consumed it last night, sought admission to the hospital only later today.
The SP said two cases were registered under Section 302 IPC against Ananthayi, Chinnaponnu, Govindan alias Mottai Kalai (50), all from Melarungunam, Kesavan Chettiar, his son Sankaran and Madasamy, all belonging to Nattham. Ananthayi and Kesavan Chettiar have been arrested.
The Minister for Harijan Welfare, Mr. V. Subramanian, who visited the victims, said the tragedy was the handiwork of anti-social elements. He said that a special team of doctors would be deputed from Chennai.
There was a dearth of mortuary vans to transport the bodies from Cuddalore to the villages.
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