Toxic alcohol kills 93 in India, hundreds hospitalised


At least 99 people have died and another 200 are being treated in hospital after drinking toxic bootleg alcohol in north-eastern India, officials say.

"They bought the country liquor from a seller and consumed it on Thursday night, falling ill nearly straight away", Dhiraj Das, a senior Golaghat district official, told AFP. Bootleggers often add methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze - to their mixture to increase its strength, AFP reports. Methanol can also result from a mistake in the distilling process.

The tragic incident is the second to take place in less than a week, after an estimated 100 people previously died from poisoned bootleg liquor in the state of Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas.

In Assam, the poisonings began on Thursday afternoon.

At least 59 people died in Golaghat district, according to Dhiren Hazarika, a local administrator, and 43 more people died in the neighboring district of Jorhat, suggesting that the illegal alcohol came from a nearby source.

Since 2016, Assam's state government has been controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political group of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

State police said they arrested one man over the liquor, and authorities said two excise department officials were suspended for failing to take adequate precautions over the sale of the alcohol. "There can be multiple producers at different locations but we have to investigate what is common contaminant", Singh said.

To reduce the cost of regulated alcohol, politicians would have to cut the taxes charged on it.

The seller of the spurious liquor Sanju Orang was detained by the police but shifted to the hospital, after which he died.

Homemade alcohol is typically brewed in villages before being smuggled into cities, where it sells for about 10 cents a glass - about a third the price of legally brewed liquor.

The Excise Department of Assam has, meanwhile, destroyed almost 15,000 litres of liquor across the state.

The deaths from the two recent incidents, however, are believed to be the deadliest since a similar case killed 172 in West Bengal in 2011.