Kolkata: Call it sheer audacity or haplessness that the hooch sellers who have been rattled by public outcry over illegal liquor sale have demanded a financial package on the lines of one announced for the Maoists, as a pre-condition to discard their unlawful trade.

After the hooch tragedy, which claimed at least 173 lives, the bootleggers have formed a committee and pasted posters on the walls of the Joynagar railway station, close to Sangrampur from where most of the victims hailed, requesting a financial package 'to start a new life.’

''We want to do away with the country liquor business and seek financial package announced by the state government for Maoists and extremists like KLO,'' the posters released by a faction of such sellers claimed.

The posters said that they had formed a committee under the umbrella of ‘Jeevan ban Sangram Committee’ seeking mercy of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for a financial package ‘to eke out a living’.

“While Maoists can be offered such a package and assistance after killing innocent people, we can also expect such help from our Chief Minister,'' the posters said.

One of the hooch-sellers told reporters that their livelihood was in jeopardy as angry villagers razed liquor joints and distilleries after the deaths. ''We are now totally jobless. We too want to lead a new and respectful life,'' he said.

The posters also demanded immediate arrest of hooch racket kingpin Khonra Badshah who was still at large.

Villagers said nearly 20,000 people were engaged in the illicit liquor trade in nearly 3,000 illegal joints and small distilleries spread over Mograhat, Joynagar, Usthi, Mandirbazar, Baruipur, Gocharan and other areas in the district.

(JPN/ Bureau)