At least 76 dead af­ter drink­ing boot­leg liquor

The Dallas Morning News - - World - By JOANNA SLATER

NEW DELHI — At least 76 peo­ple have died in north­ern In­dia af­ter drink­ing boot­leg liquor, the lat­est in a series of tragedies caused by il­le­gal al­co­hol that turned out to be poi­sonous.

The deaths were in two neigh­bor­ing states, Ut­tar Pradesh and Ut­tarak­hand.

Tainted liquor has killed at least 36 peo­ple since Thurs­day in the Sa­ha­ran­pur dis­trict of Ut­tar Pradesh, said Alok Ku­mar Pandey, the lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tor. The dis­trict is about 130 miles from New Delhi, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The au­top­sies are not yet com­plete, Pandey said, and the death toll is likely to rise. Other vic­tims are be­ing treated in lo­cal hos­pi­tals, and “doc­tors are try­ing their best to save their lives.”

In a neigh­bor­ing dis­trict in Ut­tarak­hand, 32 peo­ple died af­ter con­sum­ing il­le­gal liquor served to them as part of a mourn­ing rit­ual.

Au­thor­i­ties be­lieve the two in­ci­dents are linked, with mourn­ers trav­el­ing from Ut­tar Pradesh to Ut­tarak­hand and bring­ing back liquor to sell.

Eight peo­ple also died in the east­ern part of Ut­tar Pradesh in an un­con­nected tragedy in a vil­lage in the dis­trict of Kushi­na­gar. Res­i­dents there drank tainted liquor at a fair or­ga­nized to cel­e­brate a fes­ti­val, said Ra­jeev Narayan Mishra, the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tor. He be­gan re­ceiv­ing re­ports of the deaths Thurs­day.

Deaths from il­licit liquor are com­mon in In­dia, where il­le­gally brewed al­co­hol is of­ten con­sumed for rea­sons in­clud­ing poverty and ge­o­graphic iso­la­tion. Boot­leg­gers have been known to add methanol, a toxic sub­stance, to such brews; it can also be present be­cause of a mis­take in the brew­ing process.

The state govern­ment in Ut­tar Pradesh made dozens of ar­rests in the wake of the deaths and sus­pended lo­cal bu­reau­crats and po­lice of­fi­cers.

“Who­ever is re­spon­si­ble will not be spared,” said Yogi Adityanath, the chief min­is­ter of Ut­tar Pradesh, ac­cord­ing to a me­dia re­port. He also an­nounced com­ pen­sa­tion for rel­a­tives of the de­ceased and those un­der­go­ing treat­ment in hos­pi­tals.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­dia’s Na­tional Crime Records Bureau’s lat­est fig­ures, 1,522 peo­ple died from drink­ing spu­ri­ous liquor in 2015 — nearly all of them men.

In 2015, more than 100 peo­ple died in Mum­bai, In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal, af­ter con­sum­ing il­le­gal liquor. The vic­tims were mostly daily­wage la­bor­ers who lived in one of the city’s slums and who bought small plas­tic pack­ets of boot­leg al­co­hol for less than 10 cents, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports. It was the worst such tragedy to hit the city in a decade.

An­other mass poi­son­ing due to boot­leg liquor took place in 2011 in the state of West Ben­gal, where more than 140 peo­ple died.

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