Hooch tragedy: Cong demands resignation of Naveen

Hooch tragedy had claimed at least 34 lives.

Updated: Feb 13, 2012, 00:34 AM IST

Bhubaneswar: Holding Odisha Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik solely responsible for the recent
hooch tragedy, Congress on Sunday demanded his resignation and a
CBI probe into the tragedy that claimed at least 34 lives.

"A thorough analysis shows the chief minister alone
was responsible for the hooch tragedy and nobody else is to be
blamed. Therefore, Naveen Patnaik must step down owning
responsibility," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC)
President Niranjan Patnaik told reporters.

Instead of making others scapegoat, the chief
minister should quit to set a healthy democratic tradition as
no other minister or official was responsible for the liquor
disaster, he said.

Accusing Naveen of protecting his chair by removing
ministers and suspending officials to mislead people, Patnaik
claimed that the chief minister had turned down a series of
recommendations by excise ministers and a high-level committee
to import country liquor to meed demand.

As Aska sugar factory was able to meet only 25 to 30
per cent of country liquor requirement in the state, it was
necessary to procure the rest about 70 per cent from other
sources to prevent spread of spurious liquor, he said.

However, the chief minister turned down proposals by
the then excise ministers and committees for procurement of
country spirit from other agencies in August and November,
2008, July 2009 and in June 2011, Patnaik said.

The PCC chief sought to know whether the chief
minister rejected all the proposals due to pressure from any
lobby and said only a CBI probe can find the truth.

Since there was an acute shortage of country spirit in
the market, unscrupulous elements circulated spurious items
for consumption by habitual drinkers, he said.

Meanwhile, three medicine shop owners were arrested
from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack in connection with the hooch
episode of February 6 which has so far claimed the lives of 34
persons, official sources said.

While A U Singhdeo has resigned as excise minister
over the incident, three officers have been suspended for
dereliction of duty.