New Delhi – At least 39 people have died and other 27 fallen sick from drinking cheap spurious liquor containing toxic methanol in several villages of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Radio Pakistan reported.
The police have arrested eight suspected bootleggers while the Indian provincial governments have suspended 35 officials including 12 police officers after the incident.
According to the police department, 26 people died in two separate incidents in the state of Uttar Pradesh while 13 others died in the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand. The majority of the deaths were reported from the village of Balpur in Uttarakhand.
The police said that the victims consumed liquor during two customary functions on Thursday night, adding that the post-mortem and initial forensic reports suggested that the brew was laced with methanol.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands. The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances to increase potency.
In some of the worst cases of such poisoning, 200 people died in 1992 in Odisha state, 180 in West Bengal in 2011 and 100 in the city of Mumbai in 2015.
Illicit liquor has also become a hugely profitable industry across India where bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to poor at a cheap rate.