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Friday, August 28, 1998
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HP, Bihar ban on mustard oil;
alert in Rajasthan, Maharashtra

NEW DELHI, Aug 27 (PTI, UNI) — Bihar and West Bengal followed Delhi in banning the sale of mustard oil while an alert was sounded in Rajasthan against its use as five more persons died of dropsy here today pushing the toll to 19.

Reports from Shimla said that the Himachal Pradesh Government today decided to ban two brands of edible oils in the state in the wake of recent deaths and ailments due to consumption of adulterated edible oils in Delhi and its surrounding areas.

About 100 persons were rushed to hospitals here since last night, complaining of swelling of limbs, vomiting, breathing and cardiac problems, taking the number of patients suffering from dropsy disease, caused by consumption of adulterated mustard oil, to 600, the Delhi Health Minister, Mr Harsh Vardhan, said.

The sharp increase in dropsy patients on a single day despite yesterday’s Delhi High Court ban on the sale of mustard oil of all brands was attributed by Mr Vardhan to lack of "awareness" among the people, particularly those belonging to lower strata of society.

The Bihar Government today imposed a ban on all supplies of mustard oil from outside the state and sale of unpacked oil following detection of up to 20 dropsy cases.

The West Bengal Government also banned mustard oil sale in the state from today as a precautionary measure.

The Rajasthan Government has alerted the Health Directorate to keep a strict vigil on supply and sale of this cooking medium. Health inspectors were collecting oil samples for chemical tests in Alwar and Bharatpur districts as this belt is recognised as mustard-growing area in the country.

Meanwhile, the Delhi police today made further headway in the investigation of the dropsy tragedy with the arrest of a manufacturer of ‘adulterated’ mustard oil by the crime branch, which raided several oil production units in the Capital.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Mr Karnal Singh, said the manufacturer, Sushil, was arrested from Lakhan Majra in Jind district of Haryana by a team of the crime branch which had been especially sent to the state to nab Sushil and his brother, Pawan, who has absconded.

Sushil and Pawan were responsible for the manufacture of ‘Vande, Laxmi and Tiranga’ brands of mustard oil, consumption of which had resulted in the deaths of two persons — Sushila and her daughter Pinki — of Ranaji Enclave in West Delhi from where 25 others, including the husband of Sushila and her two sons, were also admitted to Deen Dayal Upadhdyay Hospital.

Mr Karnal Singh, under whose supervision the probe into the case was being conducted, said the police was still awaiting the results of oil samples collected from Sushil’s factory. However, the police felt that the manner in which people have fallen sick after consuming the oil of these brands proved that the oil was adulterated.

Following interrogation of Sushil, three special teams of the crime branch headed by Assistant Commissioners of Police Ravi Shanker and Jaipal Singh raided several oil manufacturing factories in the south-west, west and north-west districts.

In Uttar Pradesh, every fourth sample of 114 non-branded samples of the oil collected from different markets at Lucknow was found to be contaminated, said Dr P.K. Seth, Director of the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC).

In Mumbai, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) today alerted the various civic administrations of Maharashtra on the consignments of sale of mustard oils banned by the Delhi Government yesterday. back

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