Twenty-five people arrested in India after 69 die from tainted alcohol

Police officers and government officials suspended following deaths in Punjab state

Aam Aadmi Party Punjab unit president Bhagwant Mann (2-R) grieves with the relatives of people who died after consuming tainted liquor, in Tarn Taran, India. Photograph: Raminder Pal Singh/EPA

Aam Aadmi Party Punjab unit president Bhagwant Mann (2-R) grieves with the relatives of people who died after consuming tainted liquor, in Tarn Taran, India. Photograph: Raminder Pal Singh/EPA

 

Indian police have arrested 25 people on suspicion of selling tainted alcohol that killed at least 69 people this week in northern Punjab state.

A state government statement said six police officers and seven government officials have been suspended for failure to prevent the sale of tainted liquor, as a magistrate began an inquiry into the deaths reported from three districts: Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Batala.

Police officer Roshan Lal said 69 deaths have been confirmed as a result of the alcohol, though local media reports put the number at 86.

The police chief for Punjab state, Dinkar Gupta, said the first five deaths were reported on Wednesday night in two villages in Amritsar.

Mr Gupta said those arrested used to supply the tainted alcohol to roadside eateries from where it was sold to travellers and villagers.

Crackdown

A state government statement said the deaths were due to “spurious” liquor and a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing in the state was ordered.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands of alcohol from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency.

In 2019, at least 133 people died after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India’s northeast Assam state. The victims were mostly tea plantation workers.

That same year, another 80 people died from tainted liquor in Uttar Pradesh state. – AP