Patna: At least 22 people have died and several others have been hospitalised in India after drinking toxic alcohol, authorities said Thursday.
The deaths happened mainly in two villages in the eastern state of Bihar, where the sale and consumption of liquor are prohibited.
Such bans are in force in several Indian states, driving a thriving black market for cheap alcohol made in unregulated backstreet distilleries that kills hundreds of people every year.
In the latest incident, men in the Saran district began vomiting on Tuesday before their condition deteriorated.
Three died on the way to the hospital and others died while being treated on Wednesday and Thursday, with local media reports putting the toll at 31.
Hospital chief Sagar Dulal Sinha said 22 post-mortem examinations had been conducted so far.
Senior police officer Santosh Kumar said authorities had cracked down on illicit alcohol shops in the area.
“We have arrested over a dozen liquor traders and detained some others,” Kumar told.
Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in the country, around 40% is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.
Illicit liquor is often spiked with methanol to increase its potency. If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.
In July, 42 people died in the western state of Gujarat after drinking bootleg booze.
And last year, about 100 people died in the northern state of Punjab in a similar incident.
However, CM Bihar Nitish Kumar in wake of the tragedy said, “if someone consumes liquor, they will die.”
“Last time when people died due to spurious liquor, someone said they should be componsated. If someone consumes liquor, they will die – example is before us,” he said.
Toxic aclochol is respobsible for hundreds of deaths in India every year.
In August 2020, the Press Trust of India reported over 60 deaths in India from consuming poisonous, bootleg alcohol.
Officials reported that the victims died in three districts of the northern state.
In a similar incident in Feb 2019, at least 99 people died and scores were hospitalised in northern India after drinking toxic alcohol, triggering a crackdown against bootleggers, officials said.
News of the deaths in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had trickled, with police suspecting the moonshine had been cut with methanol.