New Delhi, Jul 27 (EFE).- At least 40 persons died and more than 50 remain hospitalized in western India after they consumed a powerful industrial chemical sold as liquor in villages where the sale of alcohol is banned, officials said on Wednesday.
So far, 40 people from several villages of the Botad district and the city of Ahmedabad – situated in the western state of Gujarat – have died and 51 others are being treated in hospitals, inspector general of police Ashok Kumar told EFE.
The first deaths in the tragedy were reported on Monday, after people from across towns in Botad and Ahmedabad began to be hospitalized due to drinking illegal alcohol.
Widespread raids have been carried out in the past few days in these localities by several government agencies, while authorities have urged residents to reach medical centers if they had consumed alcohol recently.
“We are asking public support, if any of the people in these villages have consumed this alcohol, please come for treatment,” Kumar said.
A strict prohibition law is in place in Gujarat since 1949, which criminalizes the sale, manufacturing, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages with harsh prison terms and fines.
The police officer said that the affected people had drunk methanol or methyl alcohol lightly diluted with water, which had been sold to locals as liquor.
So far, nine people have been arrested in relation with the incident, while the police are searching for at least 10 other accused.
One of the accused is the alleged manufacturer of the drink consumed by the victims, made from a substance which is often used as industrial solvent, which he sold to local smugglers.
As many as 85,436 crimes linked to the illegal sale of alcohol were registered within just the state of Gujarat during the first six months of this year, with more than 60,000 people being arrested, according to official data.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel – who represents Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party – held a high-level meeting over the Botad incident on Tuesday.
In the meeting, Patel “instructed the system to take strict action against the illegal sellers of such narcotic substances and the investigation committee to complete the investigation (…) immediately,” his office said in a press release.
The consumption of illegal and adulterated alcohol is frequent in areas of rural India, with people drawn to it because of its cheap price tag.
Deaths due to consumption of adulterated alcohol have also become common in the country, even in states where there is no ban on liquor.
In 2019, at least 155 people were killed by drinking spurious alcohol at a tea plantation in the northeastern state of Assam. EFE