The alcohol was then sold to travellers and villagers.
Indian police have arrested 25 people for allegedly selling tainted alcohol that has left dozens of people dead in Punjab.
The death toll currently stands at 75 in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district. A further 11 people died in Gurdaspur district while 12 in Amritsar have died, bringing the total number of deaths to 98.
Deputy Commissioner Kulwant Singh said:
“Several families refused to divulge details of deaths and a few even cremated them. We have come to this number after information gathering.”
In a statement, the government said that six police officers and seven government officials have been suspended for failing to prevent the sale of the tainted alcohol.
The first five deaths were reported on July 29, 2020, in two villages in Amritsar. The number significantly increased over the next three days.
Dinkar Gupta, Punjab police chief, said that the suspects operated by supplying the tainted alcohol to roadside food stalls. The alcohol was then sold to travellers and villagers.
The government has ordered a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing.
The Punjab opposition party has called on the government to “curb liquor mafia in the state”.
On July 31, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that he had ordered a special inquiry into the deaths and “anyone found guilty will not be spared”.
Deaths from illegal alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops.
In many cases, it is made in backstreet distilleries and is extremely cheap, selling for as little as a few rupees per litre.
Bootleggers are often found adding methanol which is a highly toxic form of alcohol, sometimes used as an anti-freeze. This is to increase its potency.
If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.
According to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India, it is estimated that five billion litres of alcohol is drunk every year in India. However, around 40% is illegally produced.
There have been numerous cases of people selling illegal alcohol. In one case, two people from Gurdaspur were arrested.
Indian police received a tip-off about Gurmeet Kaur’s illegal activities and eventually located her home.
Her home was raided and officers recovered several bottles of liquor.
ASI Gurpreet Singh confirmed that Kaur was arrested and the bottles of alcohol were seized.
Another arrest was made in the city when police caught a man trying to sell illegal liquor near some bushes.
Police in-charge Kulwant Singh explained that a man named Nazir Christ had been selling liquor near some bushes by the side of a road in Aujla Colony.
Officers found out about the crime through an informant.
However, when officers tried to arrest, Nazir attempted to run away with a plastic bag. Police briefly gave chase before catching him.
Nazir was arrested while the bag was found to contain 14 bottles of liquor.