Twenty-one laborers died after drinking toxic homemade liquor in northern India, police said Sunday, in the latest incident of alcohol poisoning.
Police in Uttar Pradesh state’s Etah district said the victims started to vomit and fall sick, complaining of severe stomach aches and blurred vision after consuming the illicit moonshine late Friday.
Earlier the toll was reported at 17, with 12 people hospitalized. However, four of those have since died, police said.
“Four more people succumbed to the poisoning. The total deaths are 21 now,” senior district police officer, Visarjan Singh Yadav, told AFP by telephone, adding that others remain ill in hospital.
A police officer said that a local vendor was arrested late Saturday after police registered a formal case against him for culpable homicide.
“The vendor obviously mixed some chemical in the last batch … police are investigating the matter,” the officer, who requested anonymity, told AFP without specifying the chemical used in this case.
Bootleggers are often found adding methanol – a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an antifreeze or fuel – in their home-brew liquor to increase the alcoholic content. If ingested, it can cause blindness and liver damage and can kill in larger concentrations.
The Press Trust of India reported locals saying that six people had lost their eyesight after drinking the tainted alcohol. The incident prompted state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to suspend five district officials, including two police officers, for neglect of duty.
He has offered 200,000 rupees ($3,000) in compensation to the families of those killed.
Most of Friday night’s victims were daily wage laborers and farmers too poor to afford branded alcohol who would usually buy a cheap mix from bootleggers after work.
Nearly 3 billion liters of legal liquor and an estimated 2 billion liters of hooch are consumed in India annually.