At least 34 people die in India after drinking bootleg liquor

More than 100 were admitted to hospital after consuming alcohol spiked with poisonous methanol.

An Indian woman prepares Gudumba, local illicit liquor in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
An Indian woman prepares Gudumba, local illicit liquor, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh [File: Mahesh Kumar A/AP Photo]

At least 34 people have died, with dozens more being treated in hospital, after drinking illegally brewed alcohol in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the authorities said.

A state government spokesperson on Thursday confirmed the deaths caused by consuming alcohol tainted with methanol.

“Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,” the state’s chief minister MK Stalin posted on social media platform X.

The incident occurred in the Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people suffering from vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhoea were admitted to hospitals, triggering a police investigation.

District official MS Prasanth said the number of patients in critical condition kept changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

The state government confirmed in a statement that it had suspended at least 10 officials, including the district’s collector and police chief.

Police arrested one person for selling illicit liquor and seized 200 litres (7,039fl oz) of the methanol-mixed alcoholic drink, the government said.

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district to handle the crisis.

Spiked

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol, popularly called hooch, are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops.

The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as methanol, used in products from paint thinners to fuel, to increase potency.

If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

The industry is hugely profitable as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state and at least 28 died in Gujarat state in the west after drinking tainted liquor sold without authorisation.

And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies