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Mystery behind Ganjam hooch tragedy deepens

Staff Reporter

Suspended inspector levels allegations against Collector

BERHAMPUR: Allegations linking the Ganjam district Collector with the liquor mafia made by a suspended police inspector before the Justice P.K. Patro Commission have deepened the mystery behind the Ganjam hooch tragedy of last year.

The judicial commission was constituted to investigate into the tragedy that claimed 35 lives in March and April last.

Satish Padhi, the inspector who was suspended after the tragedy, went beyond the statements in his submitted affidavit to furnish extra data during his `examination in chief' when he appeared before the commission at the Berhampur court on Wednesday.

Counsel for the State before the commission Sisir Padhi said that as the statements needed more cross-examination, the witness Satish Padhi would appear before the commission again at its next hearing in Bhubaneswar on January 27.

K.K. Behera, lawyer of the suspended inspector, also admitted that his client gave statements beyond the scope of the affidavit filed by him.

Lenient attitude

Before the commission, Satish Padhi alleged that district Collector Sanjay Singh's brother had direct links with the liquor mafia of Ganjam district due to which the administration remained lenient towards the mafia. The administration did not book some persons under the National Security Act (NSA) despite requests from the police, which could have prevented the tragedy, he alleged.

Thirty-six persons filed affidavits before the commission. Thirty-four of them appeared before it in its three hearings. One hearing was held at Chatrapur while the rest were in Berhampur. Satish Padhi was the last witness to be heard.

The affidavit of another witness Sanjit Panigrahy, who appeared before the commission on Tuesday, alleged that the officials had fixed high monthly `contractual money' for different licensed liquor shops due to which there were no bidders for many them. In the absence of licensed shops, the illicit liquor mafia flourished. Panigrahy termed the suspension of low-ranking officials as uncalled for.

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