The investigation into the death of 10 people due to consuming hand sanitiser led the police to a school drop-out who started manufacturing hand sanitiser by watching YouTube videos.
Sale Srinivas, the prime accused in the case, had worked in a petrol pump for some time before taking to manufacturing of sanitiser. Ten people have so far been arrested in the case, Prakasam district police chief Siddharth Kaushal said.
Though the police had initially claimed that only 10 people had died of consuming hand sanitiser, the Superintendent of Police (SP) later said that there were 16 people who had succumbed in a span of three days between July 29 and 31. “Most of them were beggars, hamalis and rickshaw pullers who got addicted to liquor. They had consumed hand sanitiser due to non-availability of alcohol,” Kaushal said.
A five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the district police, with the support of special enforcement bureau and drug inspectors, was entrusted with the investigation into the supply of sanitiser to the dealers in Kurichedu village in the district.
“The SIT collected 69 bottles from the different scenes of crime and identified that the deceased consumed eight brands of sanitisers. The team started locating their addresses and manufacturing units. One of these brands – Perfect Gold – had no batch number and was found to have been supplied by Vandana Pharma from Bengaluru. But during investigation, the SIT found that there was no such company,” the SP said.
After intensive search, the SIT traced the dealer of Perfect Gold brand of sanitiser at Prashasan Nagar in Hyderabad and seized heavy stocks of sanitiser boxes in the premises of distributor. On interrogation, the dealer confessed that one Sale Srinivas from Subhashnagar, Jedimetla was supplying this sanitiser to him on cheapest rates.
The SIT officials took Srinivas into custody. During interrogation, it was revealed that Srinivas, a school drop-out from Siddapuram village of Vikarabad district, had worked in a petrol bunk and as solid paint remover for some time and had little knowledge of chemicals.
On noticing the increasing demand for sanitiser during the Covid-19 period, Srinivas got into sanitiser manufacturing with the help of his elder brother two chemical sellers. They suggested to him that methanol which is cheaper than ethanol can be used for using sanitiser to get bigger profits.
“So, he started making sanitiser using methanol by watching the process in YouTube videos under the brand name of Perfect Gold. He did not get any license from drug administration authority or did not get any permission from the government to install the manufacturing unit,” the SP said.
Initially, Srinivas used to distribute sanitiser bottles in an auto and later, he got in touch with one distributor Kesav Agaraval who agreed to distribution of large quantities of sanitiser. Thus, he had supplied the sanitiser to various shops.
The SIT officials found the supply chain and distribution track of Perfect Gold hand sanitiser from Hyderabad to Kurichedu and busted the entire racket. “We have arrested Srinivas and four others who were involved in the manufacture and distribution of methanol-based hand sanitiser and five medical shop owners in Darsi and Kurichedu who sold this brand of sanitiser to the victims,” Kaushal said.
All the 10 accused were produced before a local court in Darsi, which remanded them to two-week judicial custody.
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