In a major breakthrough in the case of toxic liquor deaths in Punjab, the state Police has arrested a Ludhiana-based paint store owner, allegedly responsible for triggering the chain of events that ultimately resulted in the death of 111 persons across three districts.
Rajeev Joshi, who was arrested late on Monday evening, disclosed that he supplied the three drums of methanol, which were used to make the spurious methanol-based alcohol. The police is now tracking the leads given by Mr Joshi, who was reportedly procuring various types of alcohol and spirits from various places in Punjab and Delhi.
With the arrest of Mr Joshi and two other key players in the entire tragic saga, the number of arrests in the case has gone up to 40 – 21 from Tarn Taran, ten from Amritsar rural and nine from Batala. The arrests followed 563 raids conducted in the three districts since July 31.
The DGP said that one accused on the run, identified as Dharminder, was arrested on Tuesday in the case related to the 13 deaths in Batala. The DGP said 50 litres of alcohol was seized from him.
In addition, acting on the directives of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the State Police had launched a major state-wide crackdown on spurious liquor in the past 24 hours.
According to the DGP, the arrest of Mr Joshi and other criminals, has led the police to identify some more key people involved in the manufacture and distribution of spurious liquor, including the supply chain of methanol (methyl alcohol), which led to the deaths in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Batala. Enquiries are also being made from Delhi and other places regarding the possible source of methanol supplied by Rajiv Joshi.
Methanol or methyl alcohol poisoning has been behind most of the hooch tragedies in India, including the recent one in Assam (168 deaths), Uttar Pradesh (97 deaths) and Uttarakhand (30 deaths) in February 2020. Similar unfortunate hooch tragedies had earlier caused 167 deaths in Mumbai in June 2015 and in Bihar in August 2016.
Currently, methanol is easily available in the market, and has many industrial applications including the manufacture of varnishes among other products.