The death toll from poisoning linked to toxic liquor in India’s northern state of Punjab rose to 105 on Monday even as police carried out a crackdown on the illicit alcohol trade in the region.
Poor farmers and workers fell ill after drinking the alcohol across three districts, and the first deaths were reported last Wednesday.
The toll soared from 21 on Friday after families reported deaths to administration officials over the weekend, in what has become the country’s worst bootleg alcohol incident this year.
Eighty people died in the Tarn Taran district over the past five days, senior official Kulwant Singh said. Twenty-five deaths were confirmed in nearby Amritsar and Batala, state police said.
In a crackdown, police conducted dozens of raids across villages to arrest 30 bootleggers and smashed illegal distilleries while seizing thousands of litres of tainted liquor.
Initial investigations revealed the liquor contained methanol, which can cause blindness and death when consumed in large amounts.
The Punjab government has suspended seven excise officials and six police officials even as opposition parties accused ruling party leaders of “patronizing [the] spurious liquor trade.”
An average of 1,000 people die in India each year after consuming illegally distilled alcohol, government data shows. The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances.
A total of 151 people, mostly tea-plantation workers, died after drinking toxic alcohol last year in one of the worst cases of liquor poisoning in India in recent years.