At least 40 people have died and more than fifty have been hospitalized after ingesting a powerful industrial chemical sold as brandy in villages in western India where the sale of alcohol is strictly controlled, police sources said on Wednesday.
So far, 40 people from various towns in the western state of Gujarat’s Potat district and Ahmedabad city have died and 51 others are receiving medical treatment in hospitals, Inspector General of Police Ashok Kumar told Efe.
The deaths began last Monday, when many people from various communities in Podad and Ahmedabad started coming to hospitals after consuming illegal liquor in the area.
Intensive raids involving various government agencies have been carried out in these cities in recent days, while authorities are urging residents to seek medical attention if they have consumed alcohol in recent days.
“We are asking for public support, if anyone in these villages has consumed this liquor, come and seek treatment,” Kumar said.
The state of Gujarat is governed by a strict law in force since 1949, which prohibits the sale, manufacture, distribution and consumption of liquor, and imposes heavy fines and penalties against violations.
According to Kumar, people used methanol or methyl alcohol, diluted with water and sold as brandy to local people. Nine people have been arrested so far in connection with the incident and the police are looking for at least ten others.
One of those named is said to be the manufacturer of the drink consumed by the victims, made from the substance, sometimes used as an industrial solvent, and sold to small local traffickers.
In the state of Gujarat alone, 85,436 cases related to the sale of illegal liquor have been registered in the first six months of this year and more than 60,000 accused have been arrested, according to official data.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP called for a high-level meeting on the Potat incident yesterday.
According to his office, in it he “directed the authorities to take strict action against the illegal sellers of those drugs” and asked for an early conclusion of the investigation.
Consumption of illicit and adulterated alcohol in India usually occurs in rural areas or in the most disadvantaged areas in cities due to its low cost.
With recent tragedies like the death of at least 155 people in a tea plantation in the northeastern state of Assam in 2019, such deaths from adulterated alcohol are common in the country, even where there are no restrictions.
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