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Tainted liquor kills more than 30 people in India in the country's latest bootleg alcohol tragedy

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New Delhi — At least 34 people have died in India after consuming illegally brewed liquor in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. More than 100 others were still being treated in hospitals Thursday for stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea after consuming the methanol tainted liquor, according to state officials.

Tamil Nadu's top official, Chief Minister M. K. Stalin, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths and promised to take action against anyone involved in the illicit liquor business.

At least one person was arrested and about 44 gallons of the methanol-mixed alcoholic beverage were seized, the government said.

"Those involved in the crime have been arrested… action has also been taken against the officials who failed to prevent it," Stalin said in a social media post on Thursday, adding that he had ordered an investigation. "Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist," he said.

Family members perform the last rites for people who died after consuming tainted liquor in the Kallakurichi district of India's Tamil Nadu state, June 20, 2024. R.SATISH BABU/AFP/Getty

Stalin's administration suspended the superintendent of police in the Kallakurichi district, where the alcohol deaths occurred, along with the district's top tax official.

The state government deployed a team of specialist doctors to Kallakurichi to help hospitals deal with the high number of cases. M. S. Prasanth, another senior state official, said the number of patients in critical condition was changing, indicating that the number of deaths could increase.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India. The liquor is often produced by spiking off-the-shelf alcohol with cheap chemicals such as methanol and even pesticides to increase its potency. It's an unorganized, illegal, but hugely profitable trade.  

Bootleggers sell vast quantities at cut rates to the poor, without paying taxes to the government.

In December 2022, more than 30 people died in the eastern Indian state of Bihar after consuming tainted alcohol. In July 2002, 28 people died and 60 became ill after drinking bootleg liquor in the western state of Gujarat, where the sale of alcohol is banned.

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