MUMBAI: In India, a batch of ‘toxic illegal alcohol’ claimed at least 34 lives, whilst more than 100 others were rushed to hospital, state officials in Tamil Nadu told reporters on Thursday.

The deadly concoction of locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, according to the chief minister of the state, ‘M.K. Stalin’. A statement from his office informed that arrests have been made over the deaths and warned that such crimes “ruin society and will be suppressed with an iron fist”.

Each year, hundreds die in India due to consuming cheap alcohol, made in ‘backstreet distilleries’.

In order to increase its ‘potency’ (percentage of alcohol), the liquor is often spiked with ‘methanol’. This can lead to the loss of vision, damage to the liver and death.

In a post on the social media platform ‘X’, the Governor of Tamil Nadu ‘R.N. Ravi’ said he was “deeply shocked” at the deaths, adding that “many more victims are in serious condition battling for (their) lives”.

Despite the fact that Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, liquor traded on the black market often comes at a lower price, than alcohol being sold legally.

Selling and consuming liquor is prohibited in several parts of India, which has driven the thriving black market for ‘potent’ and sometimes ‘lethal’ backstreet moonshine.

Last year, poisonous alcohol killed at least 27 people, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. In 2022, at least 42 people died in Gujarat, after consuming ‘toxic illegal alcohol’.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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