The deaths from drinking spurious liquor are getting more and more disturbing by the day, and seem more and more likely to spring up in almost any corner of the country. And any circle of individuals in any class of society can fall prey it seems. The tragedy that befell the annual retreat for colleagues at one of the most prominent communications agencies in the country, Asiatic 360 -where many of the dead and most ill patients happen to be friends or ex-coworkers with backgrounds in the media - was one that resonated through so many firms who were left thinking: that could so easily have been us.
Certainly deaths from hooch are nothing new in this part of the world, particularly Bangladesh and India, where cheaply available chemicals. Yet the premature deaths of at least 18 people, specially three university students, has prompted the law enforcers to go for tough action against the fake alcohol-manufacturers in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
Spurious liquors include: illicit liquor (unauthorised preparation, not fit for human consumption and not complying with even minimum standards) and denatured alcohol (prepared for industrial uses and entirely unfit for human consumption). A number of such fake alcohol-manufacturing factories have been built up in different areas of the country, including the capital.
A section of alcohol traders, evading the eyes of the law enforcers, are manufacturing fake alcohol in an unhygienic environment, packing it in old foreign alcohol bottles and selling it to people as brand items, resulting in premature death warrants for many, many people. At least 30 people died in the country last month after consuming toxic liquor, according to media reports. Eventually a 'special instruction' was issued in the public interest to hunt down the manufacturers of poisonous liquor, and detective police conducting a massive drive busted a fake alcohol manufacturing factory in the capital's Vatara area this week.
There is a gradual trend towards alcohol use in Bangladesh, as alcohol per capita consumption increased by about 100 times from 1973 to 2010. Heavy episodic drinking has been reported in 20.2% of Bangladeshi drinkers, although alcohol dependence was estimated to affect just 0.7% of the general population, all according to a paper in the Asia Pacific Journal of Medical Toxicology. These are not at all unmanageable numbers, and coupled with the moonshine deaths, suggest the ban on foreign liquor may be proving counterproductive. Something to ponder perhaps, for the authorities.
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