Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The ones, that have survived the killer liquid, know that, they had consumed hooch in medicine bottles. The Chief Minister and his government also know that 40 persons have succumbed to hooch. That’s why the CM’s close friend A.U.Singhdeo, holding as he was the excise portfolio, had to resign from the cabinet and the excise commissioner had to hand over his charges. But, now, the Orissa Assembly in session, has been fed with the information that the killer liquid was not spurious liquor, but was medicine available in drug stores sans any prescription.

Surprisingly, a Congress member Sadhu Nepak had put the lead question.

His query was a statement seeking an answer.

In Balianta and Barang areas, he stated, people died by taking poisonous medicine and wanted to know as to what steps the government, in view of this, has taken to inspect regularly the medicine manufacturing units and medicine shops in the State.

He did not stay to attend to his question and had authorized another Congress member Anup Sai to handle it on his behalf.

The Minister replied that there is nothing like poisonous medicine. But there are drugs, with possibility of being spurious, to purchase which, no prescription is required under the Rules.

It is provided under the Drug and Cosmetic Rules, 1945, the Minister said, that, drugs placed under schedule H and X thereof must be sold under prescription and drugs not under these two schedules can be sold sans prescription. The State Government has no control over that.

The Minister further said, in these non-scheduled drugs, manufacturers may use alcohol as they deem necessary. But, in place of ethyl alcohol, which is permissible, if they use methyl alcohol, that may affect eye sight and may even lead to death. Yet, he said, the State Government cannot ban production thereof, as it is the Central Government, which alone is empowered to impose any such prohibition. He cited how in 1999 and 2000 the State Government’s ban order on one such killing agent used in non-prescription drugs was nullified by the Orissa High Court on the ground that the State had no jurisdiction to impose such a ban without permission of the Central Government.

The House went into a pandemonium over the issue, as the Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh came down heavily upon the CM’s politics of resignation of Ministers when he, in events like the tragedy that forms the crux of the instant question, falls in critical junctures and needs to save his skin.

But the hit of Singh’s intervention by way of supplementary question, jerked the treasury benches to their feet when what he said generated insinuations that the CM has sacrificed A.U.Singhdeo, a minister of his own camp to save his skin, while not daring to touch the Health Minister Prasanna Acharya, despite the deaths now being attributed to spurious medicine that comes under the portfolio of Health, because he belongs to the other camp headed by Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.

The pandemonium swayed away the real issue.

And, resultantly the House could not make the Minister answerable on the severest massacre of the year perpetrated by a producer of non-prescription drugs – if that’s the position pending the Judicial Commission of Inquiry – as neither the Congress nor any in the Opposition could ask, as to why the State Government had/has not sought for permission of the Central Government to ban the spurious medicine that, according to what the Minister told the House, took the toll of so many lives.

Politics, thy name is the art of hoodwinking the innocent people in a system called democracy!

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