The death toll from a batch of illegally brewed
alcohol in northern India doubled on Saturday, as authorities
launched a crackdown, and police and officials were suspended.
At least 57 people have died after drinking the poisonous liquor, suspected of being laced with menthol. The toll Friday had been 28.
The victims, all villagers in adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states, had consumed the tainted liquor on Thursday. Police, who are working on the assumption that the alcohol may have come from the same source, have arrested 30 people, many of them bootleggers, and seized hundreds of litres of tainted liquor.
Authorities have suspended over 30 officials, including 10 policemen, on charges of negligence or collusion in the illicit trade.
Twenty more people had died in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur district, bringing the death toll there to 36, top administrative official Alok Pandey told dpa by phone on Saturday. Twenty-two people were admitted to hospitals but were in stable condition, he said. In Uttarakhand state's Haridwar district, the death toll had risen to 21, from 12 on Friday, regional police chief Janmejay Khanduri said.
An average of 1,000 people, mostly from poorer sections of society, die in India each year after consuming illegally brewed alcohol, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances. Deaths as a result of consuming such alcohol are in the headlines regularly.
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