Strike to protest hooch deaths draws mixed response

Patna, Dec 15 (IANS) Several trains were halted and road traffic hit in Bihar Saturday as the Left parties called a statewide strike protesting the death of nearly 50 people, mostly the state's poorest, after consuming spurious liquor, police said.

Many of the deaths were reported over just the last ten days.

Normal life was affected in Bhojpur, Gaya, Aurangabad and some part of rural Patna.

However, normal life was not hit in Patna as business establishments, educational institutions and offices functioned as usual.

"The strike to protest the deaths of people after consuming spurious liquor evoked good response across the state," the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) leader Kunal, who goes by just a single name, said.

It was the CPI(ML) which called the strike, and other left parties including the CPI, CPI(M) and the Socialist Unity Centre of India supported the strike call.

The CPI-ML describes death in hooch tragedies as another kind of massacre.

"The liquor mafia got away with murder by virtue of enjoying the patronage of the ruling Janata Dal-United and Bharatiya Janata Party," Kunal said.

Other opposition parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Congress have raised the issue of deaths due to hooch tragedies in the state and demanded action against the guilty, but not supported the strike call.

At least 35 poor people, mostly Dalits, died in Bhojpur after consuming spurious liquor; there were 12 deaths in Gaya, and two each in Aurangabad and Patna in the last ten days.

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