Over 36 people have died and at least 88 people are in various hospitals in Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad and Botad in the latest episode of spurious liquor consumption in Gujarat.
Even as efforts are being made by the ruling Gujarat government to convert the ongoing hooch tragedy as a chemical kaand, a case of chemical consumption; it is to be noted that this is not the first time a spurious liquor consumption case has happened.
The last big case happened in Ahmedabad in 2008. Then joint commissioner of police was Ashish Bhatia who is currently DGP of the State and then deputy commissioner of police Abhay Chudasama who is currently Range IG, Gandhinagar investigated and ensured that those responsible for the tragic death of several labourers and poor people went to jail.
It was in 2008 that over 158 daily wagers, labourers and poor people died in Kagdapith, Bapunagar, Odhav and Rakhial areas of Ahmedabad. All the liquor that was supplied was by a group of about a dozen bootleggers. The same thing had happened that the chemicals in the liquor were unbalanced or maybe the liquor was contaminated. But the entire country was shocked when hundreds of people started taking ill and dropping dead after consuming liquor at their regular dens.
It was Team Ashish Bhatia and Abhay Chudasama who led the investigations. ” We ensured that poor people and their death got a dignified closure. The only way to give them dignity in death was by giving them justice” recalls Ashish Bhatia. “This was what weighed in our minds. All the dead were poor people. By ensuring that we nab the right people, do the right investigation and ensure that we had a watertight case against all the accused was our priority”. Abhay Chudasama told Vibes of India.
Team Bhatia and Chudasama worked to ensure this. They tirelessly investigated the case. Hundreds of poor people had to be admitted to the hospital. “It was a terribly disgusting time. Nearly 158 people from a single city had dropped dead”, recalls Abhay Chudasama.
The investigation took hardly days. The teams, forgetting their designations and hierarchies, moved around in the affected city areas. There was an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Nobody was ready to speak out against the powerful bootleggers. “But our aim was justice. So without seeing whether it was day or night, we focussed on this. We spent several sleepless nights and did not even go home”, recalls Chudasama. DGP Bhatia agrees that 2009 was a lesson.
This was not an overnight investigation, recalls Mayur Chavda, currently the Superintendent of Police, Intelligence Bureau, Gandhinagar and then a junior police officer working as an assistant commissioner of police. Chavda recalls his other teammates, Tarun Barot and M D Chaudhry among many others.
“After five months of thorough investigations, we figured out that this was an organised sort of a crime. There were 22 accused.”, Chavda added.
“We ensured we had a water tight case against the accused. They were directly responsible for the death of 158 people besides ruining so many people socially and financially”, recalled Abhay Chudasama. “But, we ensured that justice was delivered to the poor . I was appointed in the law and order department but was recalled for this investigation as JCP, Crime. It was fulfilling when the verdict was finally delivered. All the accused were sentenced to a rigorous ten-year imprisonment”, Ashish Bhatia told Vo!.