NEW DELHI Over 100 people have died due to adulterated bootleg alcohol in northern India, sparking a widespread crackdown against illicit liquor sellers in the country where mass deaths from drinking moonshine is common.
The latest deaths have been reported since Feb. 7, and Saharanpur district in the state of Uttar Pradesh has been the worst affected, accounting for some 60 casualties, Additional Director General (Law and Order) of Police Anand Kumar told EFE on Monday.
Anand Kumar said 15 to 20 people, who took ill with poisoning symptoms after drinking liquor, have been hospitalized in Saharanpur.
Police have arrested or detained about 300 people from Uttar Pradesh the most populated state and one of the most impoverished in India with some 200 million residents.
They are suspected of illegal liquor trafficking, said Anand Kumar, adding samples of adulterated alcohol were being examined.
It is undergoing a test as of now. I will not be able to conclusively tell the chemical components of the illicit alcohol. But there seems to be presence of pesticides and other chemicals which made the alcohol toxic, the police official said.
At least 26 deaths were reported from Hindu-holy town of Haridwar in the neighboring Uttarakhand state.
The victims were suspected to have consumed spurious liquor manufactured in a bordering village of Saharanpur, Uttarakhand Director General (Law and Order) of Police in Ashok Kumar told EFE.
Two suspects have been arrested from the hill state while police are looking for more accused.
A police official who did not wish to be named told EFE that each bottle of illicit liquor had been sold for about 100 Indian rupees (about $1.40), while quarter of a liter had been sold for between 10-30 rupees.
Another incident in the district of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, with no apparent connection with the previous ones, caused the deaths of eight people.
Four victims had been hospitalized of whom two have already been discharged, police superintendent Rajeev Narain Mishra told EFE.
The third event raises the death toll to 104 in the last four days in the two north Indian states.
Illegal and spurious alcohol intake in India usually occurs in rural areas and poor regions because of its low price.
The poor, mainly the laborers, farmers and rickshaw pullers, often drink country-made liquor which is cheaper than alcohol bought from licensed shops.
Such liquor is often contaminated with pesticides and other health-damaging substances that have caused mass deaths in the past.
The worst case in recent years was in December 2011 in the state of West Bengal in eastern India, where over 130 people died from consuming alcohol bought from an unlicensed shop.