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Toxic ayurvedic syrup row: Regulatory bodies appeal to tighten regulations

Updated: Dec 12th, 2023

Updated on Dec 12, at 1 p.m.

As per the current regulations, there is no requirement for obtaining a licence to sell and manufacture ayurvedic syrup from the state’s Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA).

According to internal sources, the state’s FDCA and prohibition excise department officials recently chaired a meeting of an expert committee, in which an appeal to make amends in the regulations was made to control the alcohol sold under the pretence of ayurvedic syrup.

The committee also recommended the central ministry of Ayush set up a regulation to avail of a licence for setting up an Ayurvedic syrup or medicine business.

Updated on Dec 9, 14.15 p.m.

As the case unfolds, after Nandurbar, connections reach Goa. Hasim, who was arrested by police, used to get the chemical (methyl alcohol) from Goa.

DySP VR Bajpayee of SIT said, “Taufiq used to get his supply of methyl alcohol from Goa, and an investigation will be initiated in that state now.”

Hasim has supplied a chemical named isopropyl to Sindhi 13 times.

What is isopropyl?

Isopropyl, also known as isopropanol, is most commonly sold as rubbing alcohol in a 70% solution.

It can also be found in antifreeze, glass cleaners, jewellery cleaners, stain removers, deicers, household disinfectants, and hand sanitisers.

Updated on Dec 7, 12 p.m.

With two accused- Kishan and Ishwar Sodha's father, Sankad Sodha, succumbing to the toxic syrup, the death toll has now reached seven, while three people are still under treatment.

The SIT investigation has revealed another chief accused, Yogesh Sindhi, who misused his food and drugs, beverages, and pharmaceutical licences to manufacture the toxic syrup.

Sindhi used to bring the methyl alcohol from Nandurbar in Maharashtra, from another accused named Taufiq Hasim. The police have nabbed the supplier Hasim and have taken him on nine-day remand.

Sindhi used to make the syrup in his factory, approximately 1.5 km away from Nadiad, and used to supply it to the nearby areas.

Updated on Dec 5, 2 p.m.

As the SIT searched the second godown at Nadiad’s Dabhan, owned by the accused Sindhi, 97 boxes of syrup were seized on Dec 4.

A total of 3,780 bottles of syrup were seized from 97 boxes. Out of which, 1,320 bottles were seized from 33 boxes of Meghasav and 2,560 bottles from 64 boxes of GEREGEM syrup.

In the dry state of Gujarat, this ayurvedic syrup was actually targeting people who would do cheap intoxications. The state-wide network of distribution of this syrup was orchestrated by Kotwani, Bhavesh, and Sindhi. 

After Kheda, a raid seized a huge amount of syrup from Rajkot. The crime branch seized five trucks loaded with syrup boxes worth ₹75 lakh in Rajkot. The authorities also seized Kotwani's factories in Nandurbar and Bhiwandi. After Kotwani and Sevkani were declared wanted, they were arrested in Vadodara.

Updated on Dec 4, 6 p.m.

Absconding suppliers Nitin Kotwani and Bhavesh Sevkani were nabbed by the Vadodara City Prevention of Crime Branch (PCB) on Dec 4.

Both the accused were residents of Vadodara and were nabbed separately as they came back into the town.

Kotwani was arrested on the Jambuva-Makarpura road who came to meet his lawyer, and Sevkani was arrested near the airport who came to meet his family.

Updated on Dec 4, at 12.25 p.m.

One more death has been reported on the morning of Dec 3 due to consumption of deadly ayurvedic syrup which made the death toll to six. 

22-year-old Vipul Sodha, a resident of Mahemdavad’s Sojali village, had consumed the syrup when he went to his uncle’s place in Bilodara. He was unwell for two days. On Dec 3, he was first rushed to a private hospital in Nadiad and then shifted to Nadiad Civil Hospital where he was declared dead.

On Nov 27, Kishan Sodha, the BJP’s treasurer and his brother had purchased a large quantity of ayurvedic syrup from Meghasava in order to earn maximum profit on the day of ‘Dev Diwali’ when a function was organised in Bilodara.

During the function, many people consumed the ayurvedic syrup to intoxicate themselves. 

At least five people were killed in Kheda after consuming a toxic ayurvedic syrup. Three from Bilodara, one from Bagdu, and one from Vadtal died due to methanol-laced herbal syrup.

While the Sodha brothers were arrested, the police raided the godown of Yohesh Sindhi, another arrested accused in the case, on Dec 3.

Kheda superintendent of police, Rajesh Gadhiya, said, “The search operation at the godown is underway, and relevant materials are being seized.”

“As a bottling machine was found during the search, manufacturing of the bottles might be done from here. We are focusing more on Yogesh Sindhi in this case, and an investigation is underway,” he added.

Updated on Dec 3, at 11.40 a.m.

Special police raids conducted across 3,271 locations have revealed that the nexus of intoxicants sold under the pretence of Ayurvedic syrup named Meghasava in Gujarat stretches from Saurashtra to North Gujarat.

22 have been held in these raids, while complaints were registered against 12.

Around 2,633 bottles of intoxicants worth ₹3.92 cr have been confiscated from raids at 210 locations across Mehsana district.

A total of 15,000 bottles worth ₹21 lakh have been confiscated from raids across Surendranagar.

Another massive package of 24,279 syrup bottles has also been confiscated.

Other than these, 73 toxic syrup bottles have been seized from raids at two locations in Kheda, 69 bottles from Mahemdavad, 48 bottles from Kathlal, 346 bottles from Amreli’s Vadia, 25 bottles from Bhavnagar, 103 bottles from Rajula, 282 bottles from Talaja, and 49 bottles from Tharad.

From Jamnagar, 351 bottles were seized, while three were held in this case. Alongside, 5,300 bottles worth ₹9 lakh were seized from Patan’s Anvarpura.

Updated on Dec 2, at 5.25 p.m.

Nitin Kotwani, one of the five accused against whom the complaint was registered, has absconded to Mumbai. Kotwani, a resident of Vadodara, was allegedly involved in the manufacturing of duplicate sanitisers in 2021 and was later caught by the police at that time.

Updated on Dec 2, at 1.40 p.m.

A deputy superintendent of police (DySP)-level special investigation team (SIT) was formed for further investigation into the case.

The SIT involved a special operation group (SOG) police inspector (PI) and a police sub-inspector of Mahemdavad police station, spearheaded by Nadiad deputy superintendent of police VR Bajpayee.

Earlier, Nadiad rural police in charge PI DN Chudasama was investigating the case.

Political connection 

Kishan Sodha, who was allegedly involved in the distribution of syrup bottles, was said to be the BJP's treasurer. However, BJP district president Ajay Brahmbhatt has suspended Sodha from his post.

A complaint was filed against Sodha and the other four, including Yogesh Sindhi, Ishwar Sodha, Nitin Kotwani, and Bhavesh Sevkani.

The racket is expected to have inter-city and inter-state links. Questions have been raised about not forming a high-level SIT comprising state-level officers.

Updated on Dec 1, at 12.12 p.m.

At least five people were killed in Gujarat’s Kheda district, while two others are battling for their lives, after consuming a toxic ayurvedic syrup.  

The syrup ‘Kalmeghasav - Asava Arishta’, reportedly contained lethal methyl alcohol and was sold over the counter in Bilodara village near Nadiad town.

Medical examinations have ruled out any (ethyl) alcohol consumption in the deceased. 

“The presence of methyl alcohol in a blood sample from one of the villagers has been confirmed,” an official said.

Police have detained three individuals, including the store owner, for intensive questioning while the authorities are awaiting recommendations from the food and drug control administration. 

“Our initial findings indicate that methyl alcohol, a highly toxic substance, was mistakenly used in place of ethyl alcohol in the syrup,” Gujarat minister and government spokesperson, Rishikesh Patel said that methyl alcohol consumption can lead to severe health complications, including blindness and death.

Director general of police, Vikas Sahay said that an inquiry into two other deaths is ongoing to ascertain their connection to the syrup consumption. 

As per officials, efforts were made to track down all 55 customers who purchased the syrup from the implicated store, while the store owner was grilled and all possible angles to the tragic incident were being explored, including alternative causes of death.

According to Rishikesh Patel, the production of such beverages is strictly regulated under the Cosmetics Act, and no current permissions exist for manufacturing within Gujarat. This suggests the syrup might have been sourced from outside the state.

(With inputs from IANS)

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