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Adopting Orphans, Melting Hearts

As Superintendent of Police of Botad district in Gujarat, Karanraj Vaghela had ensured that all the accused in an alcohol poisoning case were charged with murder so that they stay behind bars. His quick thinking had helped save the lives of several people on the day of the incident, as he swiftly made arrangements to shift them to a better hospital for treatment. The IPS officer, who is now Commandant, Protection of Government Properties, Gandhinagar, has since adopted four children of an alcohol poisoning victim.

With the rise of the illegal liquor trade in the country, there has been a rise in its dangerous consequences as well. Recently, more than 40 people died in Botad, Gujarat, after consuming spurious alcohol, leaving the nation in shock.

The incident, however, also brought to the surface the humane side of our police personnel, as two Gujarat police officers, including former Botad SP Karanraj Vaghela, came forward to adopt four orphaned children who lost their father to the tragedy.

In an exclusive conversation with Indian Masterminds, Dr. Vaghela shared details about the tragic incident and also spoke about his decision to adopt the four orphaned children.

THE SPURIOUS LIQUOR TRAGEDY

The first case of alcohol poisoning came to light on the morning of July 25. Gradually, more and more people started showing similar symptoms of poisoning, particularly in Barvala and Ranpur tehsils of Botad district.

“They consumed the poison thinking it is alcohol, which it wasn’t. Some small-time bootleggers in different villages of Botad district made spurious liquor by mixing water with methyl alcohol or Methanol, a highly poisonous industrial solvent, and sold it to villagers for Rs 20 per pouch, which they consumed, and then started falling sick,” Dr. Vaghela said.

Being a doctor himself, the officer understood the hazardous consequences of consuming methyl alcohol. Without wasting any time, he appointed over 50 ambulances across the district and coordinated with the medical helpline numbers. He further ensured that every single person who had consumed that poisonous alcohol was escorted by the police in the ambulance to a big civil hospital in Bhavnagar, owing to a lack of advanced medical facilities in Botad.

“We understood that medical facilities in Botad aren’t advanced enough to treat methanol poisoning. So we shifted all the 100 affected patients to Bhavnagar, where they were treated. We further appealed to people who had complaints of vomiting, blackouts, or dizziness to come forward and get themselves treated. They were trying to run away, but we explained to them that they are victims of poisoning and should receive treatment urgently,” Dr. Vaghela told Indian Masterminds.

ADOPTING FOUR ORPHANS

Unfortunately, even after the police promised proper treatment to the affected men, several of them went into hiding and didn’t come forward for treatment, resulting in the unfortunate death of more than 40 people across the district.

Kanubhai Sekhlia of Devgana village was one of the deceased who didn’t come forward to receive treatment. His wife had left him a few years ago, and since then, he was looking after his four young children alone. The three boys and one girl, all aged between 4-8 years, were left to fend for themselves after their father’s death.

Kanubhai’s elder brother has four kids of his own, and it was difficult for him to take care of his as well as his brother’s kids with the meager salary that he was earning. Looking at the innocent faces of the young kids and the extremely poor conditions that they were surviving in, Dr. Vaghela along with Range IG, IPS officer Ashok Yadav, took the decision of adopting the four kids and raising them.

“We will make sure that the kids get proper education by getting them admitted to the best schools and colleges in the future. We will fully ensure that they graduate and do well in their lives. Although the quality of education here is very poor and young kids usually end up as factory laborers, we will make sure that these kids get the best education so that they can compete for government exams and jobs and make a good life for themselves,” Dr. Vaghela said. 

Apart from this, he is also arranging for builders to get the children’s house renovated, since it is in a dilapidated condition now. He is also planning to open a joint account in the name of all the children, where he will keep depositing money, which can be used to meet the children’s expenses and requirements.

ACTION TAKEN AGAINST THE ACCUSED

Meanwhile, police nabbed all the grassroots level suppliers of methyl alcohol and, also, the people who prepared the poisonous alcohol that took so many lives. Within 10 hours of the first poisoning case, the police had already caught hold of most of the people involved in the tragedy, tracked the chain of events, and confiscated 400 liters of methyl alcohol from them, thus preventing more casualties in the future.

“We took it seriously and registered three FIRs in total under the case of murder against 15 accused, right from the person who took the chemicals from the factory to the person who supplied it in pouches to the victims. The owner of the factory from where the methyl came from is also listed as an accused, while his factory license has been permanently suspended by the concerned department on our request,” the officer told Indian Masterminds.

Dr. Vaghela’s decision to adopt the orphaned children of a victim in the spurious alcohol poisoning case has been appreciated by people from all across the country. By this single act, the doctor turned IPS officer managed to bring the humanitarian and compassionate side of our police force to the fore.

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