Deaths from drinking illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the country's impoverished residents often cannot afford to imbibe licensed liquor
(LUCKNOW, India) — A bad batch of bootleg liquor killed at least 17 people and sent 122 others to the hospital in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said Tuesday.
Most of the victims were among more than 200 people who had gathered to watch a cricket match Sunday evening in a village on the outskirts of the state capital, Lucknow, government official Anil Garg said.
While officials said 17 people died, unconfirmed reports early Tuesday put the death toll at 22. Doctors said 14 of those hospitalized were in serious condition and relying on artificial ventilation, while some had lost their eyesight.
Police arrested the shop owner who sold the 200-milliliter pouches of the homemade alcohol for about 30 cents each. A raid of the shop uncovered large containers of chemicals, which have been sent to a laboratory for testing, district official R.K. Pandey said.
“The symptoms gave a clear indication that these patients were served methyl alcohol,” which despite being toxic is sometimes mixed with ethyl alcohol to make a brew cheaper, said Dr. Kausar Usman, head of the trauma center at Lucknow’s King George’s Medical College.
Deaths from drinking illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed liquor.
Villager Rajesh Kumar, whose two older brothers became ill after drinking the unlicensed liquor on Monday, said the shop in Datli village was well known for selling inexpensive liquor, and that many men came from surrounding villages just to buy the brew.
The state’s highest elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, suspended six police officers suspected of taking bribes to ignore complaints against the shop and its alcohol and announced that a “drive will be launched against those involved in the illicit liquor trade.”