Ten men have been arrested for selling alcohol in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. “So far 25 people have died and a few more have been admitted to hospital and are under treatment,” Ajab Singh, a police spokesman, said on Sunday. According to local media, the alcohol was bought Thursday in a store run by two brothers.
Liquor stores in the state of Uttar Pradesh had been closed as part of the lockdown imposed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed around 160,000 in the country since April 1. But as the number of cases of contamination began to decline, Uttar Pradesh authorized the resumption of the sale of alcohol in some districts on May 11, with restricted hours.
A hundred dead in 2020
How the alcohol in question was produced has not yet been clearly determined. But hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in underground distilleries, accessible even to the poorest. Of the roughly five billion liters of alcohol consumed annually in the country, about 40% is produced illegally, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India. Methanol – a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an antifreeze – is often added to alcohol.
If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death. Last year 98 people died in the northern state of Punjab after drinking contraband alcohol. And in 2019, some 150 people died in northeastern Assam state, mostly tea plantation workers.